A graphic image of an NHL hockey player displaying the severed head and paws of his trophy grizzly is all over national media. It is unfortunate, but not surprising, that the celebrity nature of the hunter is the focus of the media coverage, and not the courageous actions taken by the Coastal First Nations to protect bears in the current regulatory vacuum. Neither the province nor the federal government is protecting our grizzlies, an officially ranked (COSEWIC designated) species at risk. They are being killed for sport, even in parks and protected areas and, as the Coastal First Nations are highlighting, in the Great Bear Rainforest.
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Last year, First Nations on B.C.'s North and Central coasts did what the provincial government has long refused to do: banned trophy hunting for bears across their traditional territories in the Great Bear Rainforest. They declared the entire Great Bear Rainforest off-limits to grizzly bear hunting and expanded protection to other bear species, including black-phased Kermode bears, true black bears and the genetically unique Haida black bear.
For millennia, aboriginal people have hunted wildlife for food, traditional purposes and trade. But Coastal First Nations say that killing an at-risk animal simply for sport is not part of their culture. Grizzlies are not only crucial to sustaining the ecological health of their lands and waters, but also to supporting the tourism opportunities that bring valuable income to northern and rural communities.
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. The only place in B.C. where grizzlies receive substantive protection now is the Great Bear Rainforest, thanks to the earlier efforts of Coastal First Nations, who worked with the B.C. government to make large areas of land off limits to logging and other industrial development. Three no-hunting zones were set up that span portions of the region.
Most British Columbians agree that killing bears for sport is unethical and immoral. A 2013 McAllister Research poll found that 80 per cent of B.C. residents believe that the sport hunting of grizzlies should end. Hunting has a long and proud tradition in Canada and many people do it to feed their families. But putting a deer or moose or caribou in your freezer for the winter is not the same as slaughtering a grizzly simply for the thrill of it.
The David Suzuki Foundation has for years been asking the government to protect grizzly bears and set aside large areas of their wilderness habitat, such as in the Great Bear Rainforest, where trophy hunting would be prohibited. We're urging government to follow the courageous direction taken by the First Nations on B.C.' s coast and save Canada's great bears.
Last May, trophy hunters shot and killed a five-year-old grizzly bear in B.C.'s Kwatna estuary — an ancient First Nations village site midway between the communities of Bella Bella and Bella Coola. The bear, nicknamed "Cheeky" by local field technicians, was skinned and left to rot in a field. His head and paws were carried out past a sign declaring trophy hunting closed in the Great Bear Rainforest.
Watch the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDg24d8fF1Q
A new website gives British Columbians the chance to meet some of our coastal bears and speak up on their behalf.