In her audit of Grizzly Bear management, Carol Bellringer (BC Auditor General) received many comments of concern over the grizzly hunt. In response, she stated that “The hunt is a policy decision and under the Auditor General Act, my office does not comment on the merits of policy.” (www.bcauditor.com). Unfortunately, she then went on to say that “The greatest threat to grizzly bears is not hunting, but rather, human activities that degrade grizzly bear habitat”. That single comment was seized upon by media headlines, and misrepresented by hunting organizations to suggest that intentionally killing grizzlies twice a year is not an issue. Justice for BC Grizzlies recognizes that degraded habitat is a grave concern for grizzlies but disagree that hunting them is not a problem. Hunting organizations want us to believe that there are plenty of bears, so killing 300 a year, a third of whom are female, just isn’t a concern. This does not ring true with the majority of British Columbians to whom it is obvious that intentionally killing Grizzly Bears is definitely part of the problem! Grizzly Bears are more than just random numbers on a “resource” data sheet. Each grizzly is a unique individual with cognitive, emotional and social characteristics. Not only does killing them end the life of unique individuals, it also changes the health of his/her ecosystem and breeds a culture of disrespect for the true nature of this keystone species.
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC 2012) got it right when they stated that “the main proximate threat affecting Grizzly Bear distribution and abundance in Canada is human-caused mortality, which is the known outcome of a variety of ultimate factors”. (www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca) If there were only one limiting factor affecting Grizzly Bear distribution and abundance, the solution would be much simpler. But In addition to being among the slowest of land mammals to reproduce, the fact is that ALL grizzly deaths, in one way or another, are human-caused and increasingly so on a landscape dominated by humans. Any human-caused mortality to BC grizzlies that can be lifted, should be lifted, immediately – followed by measures to address long-term challenges facing these iconic bears and education programs focused on ways to better understand and co-exist with them.
The NDP proposes trading grizzly trophy/sport hunting for a “sustenance hunt for grizzly bear meat for both resident and non-resident hunters”, outside the Great Bear Rainforest (www.env.gov.bc.ca). It defies reason to think that local and visiting hunters will now kill Grizzly Bears on the pretext of putting meat on the supper table; meat that is unpalatable and a health risk. Especially disturbing is the specter of managing a “grizzly bear meat hunt” under the same management systems (i.e. lottery-style limited entry hunt for residents and guide outfitter allocations for non-residents) as has been used for decades. The proposal doesn’t go far enough and the groundswell of opposition is growing. The October 14/17 open letter to government, penned by the Valhalla Wilderness Society and supported by an impressive 45 signators representing environmental and animal welfare organizations, First Nations, nature-based businesses, scientists, artists and photographers, makes the compelling case for a complete ban on all grizzly hunting province-wide (www.vws.org).
The only way to start a new chapter for BC grizzlies is to end grizzly hunting entirely. MLA Adam Olsen of the BC Green Party is calling for a moratorium on grizzly hunting while government reviews wildlife management practices and forms workable plans for a landscape altered by climate change. We applaud Mr. Olsen’s initiative and ask him to go even further to advocate for an end to all hunting of BC grizzlies, for trophy/sport or for any pseudo-meat hunt, everywhere in the province.
Comments on the proposed “grizzly meat hunt” can be conveyed by email to:
Premier John Horgan firstname.lastname@example.org
Minister Doug Donaldson (Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations) doug.donaldson.MLA@leg.bc.ca
Minister George Heyman (Environment) george.heyman.MLA@leg.bc.ca
You can find your MLA here: https://www.leg.bc.ca/learn-about-us/members