For millennia, aboriginal people have hunted wildlife for food, traditional purposes and trade. But coastal First Nations in British Columbia argue that killing an at risk animal simply for the thrill of it is foreign to their culture.
"It's not a part of our culture to kill an animal for sport and hang them on a wall," said Jessie Housty, a councillor with the Heiltsuk Nation. "When we go hunting it's for sustenance purposes not trophy hunting."
After seeing grizzly and other bears slaughtered for sport for years, First Nations on B.C.'s North and Central coasts have done what the provincial government has long refused to do: they have banned trophy hunting for bears across their traditional territories in the globally renowned Great Bear Rainforest.
Grizzlies are officially designated as an at risk species, and black bear subspecies on the B.C. coast are among the most diverse in North America, ranging from the spirit or kermode bear to the Haida black bear. Yet, the B.C. government has ignored pleas from First Nations and conservation groups and has continued to allow these majestic animals to be killed for sport, even in many parks and protected areas and in the Great Bear Rainforest.
For this reason, the David Suzuki Foundation has been asking the government to protect grizzly bears for many years, including setting aside large areas of their wilderness habitat, such as in the Great Bear Rainforest, where trophy hunting would be prohibited. Grizzlies have already been eliminated or are currently at risk in 18 per cent of the province, including the Lower Mainland and most of the Interior.
"Although the Coastal First Nations admit to having few enforcement tools at their disposal, this is an important step and will put pressure on the government to implement a comprehensive ban on the killing of bears on B.C.'s coast," said Dr. Faisal Moola, David Suzuki Foundation Terrestrial Conservation and Science Program director. "We fully support the Coastal First Nations in their efforts to protect bears, which are crucial to sustaining the ecological health of their lands and waters."
Killing bears for sport makes no sense scientifically, but it is also unethical and immoral to hunt these animals so they become a head on a wall or rug in front of a fireplace when tourists are willing to pay for the chance to photograph them alive and in the wild. Most British Columbians agree. A 2008 McAllister Research poll found that 79 per cent of B.C. residents believe that to kill a bear simply for the thrill of it is reprehensible and that the practice should end.
Today, the only place you'll find a grizzly bear south of Wyoming is on California's state flag. It would be more than a shame if all we had left to remember these magnificent animals in B.C. were a few films and First Nations carvings.
In the coming months the David Suzuki Foundation will be releasing a number of scientific and policy studies that make the case that grizzly bears should be legally protected in Canada. We'll be urging government to follow the courageous direction taken by the First Nations on B.C.' s coast and save Canada's great bears.
Read the Coastal First Nations news release here:
View a map of grizzly mortality in Great Bear Rainforest. Data shown on this map are approximate representations only. We will update the boundaries for the Coastal First Nations and the Great Bear Rainforest as it becomes available. The kill locations for grizzly bears range from 1976 to 2011 and are from the BC Ministry of Environments Compulsory Inspection Database [accessed Dec 2011] .
Map produced by Lisa Rockwell using Google Maps Engine