Photo: The grisly truth about B.C.'s grizzly trophy hunt

(Credit: Leonemoff via Flickr)

By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Ontario and Northern Canada Director General Faisal Moola.

Grizzly bears venturing from dens in search of food this spring will face landscapes dominated by mines, roads, pipelines, clearcuts and ever-expanding towns and cities. As in years past, they'll also face the possibility of painful death at the hands of trophy hunters.

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British Columbia's spring bear hunt just opened. Hunters are fanning across the province's mountains, grasslands, forests and coastline, armed with high-powered rifles and the desire to bag a grizzly bear, just to put its head on a wall or its pelt on the floor as a "trophy".

According to B.C. government statistics, they will kill about 300 of these majestic animals by the end of the spring and fall hunts. If this year follows previous patterns, about 30 per cent of the slaughter will be females — the reproductive engines of grizzly populations.

Many grizzlies will likely be killed within B.C.'s renowned provincial parks and protected areas, where trophy hunting is legal. Government records obtained by the David Suzuki Foundation in 2008 show trophy hunters have shot dozens of grizzly bears in places we would expect wildlife to be protected. We don't know the exact number of bears killed in B.C.'s parks since 2008 because, in contravention of a B.C.'s privacy commissioner's ruling, the government refuses to disclose recent spatial data showing where bears have been killed.

Much of this killing has occurred in northern wilderness parks, such as Height of the Rockies Provincial Park, Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Park and Tatshenshini-Alsek Wilderness Park. Tatshenshini-Alsek Park forms a massive transboundary conservation zone with federal protected areas in the Yukon (Kluane National Park and Reserve) and Alaska (Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve). Trophy hunting is prohibited in most U.S. national parks and all Canadian national parks, but not in B.C.'s provincial parks.

Wild animals don't heed political boundaries. Wide-ranging species like grizzly bears move in and out of neighbouring jurisdictions. If a grizzly bear in Montana wanders a few kilometres north in search of a mate, it goes from being protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act to being a possible trophy hunter target in B.C.

But now, in response to intense pressure from the trophy hunting industry, the U.S. administration wants to strip grizzly bears of federal protection. President Trump also recently signed into law rules allowing trophy hunters to target grizzly bears around bait stations and from aircraft, and to kill grizzly mothers and their cubs in Alaska's national wildlife refuges, where they've been protected from these unethical hunting practices.

Grizzly bears face an ominous political climate under the Trump administration, along with growing human threats across their North American range, from trophy hunting to habitat destruction, precipitous declines in food sources like salmon and whitebark pine nuts, and climate change impacts.

In parts of Canada, mainly in sparsely populated areas of northern B.C. and the territories, grizzly bear numbers are stable. But in the Interior and southern B.C. and Alberta, grizzlies have been relegated to a ragged patchwork of small, isolated and highly threatened habitats — a vestige of the forests and grasslands they once dominated. The B.C. government has ended grizzly hunting among highly threatened sub-populations in the Interior and southern parts of the province and, in response to pressure from local First Nations, has promised to do the same in the Great Bear Rainforest. But the slaughter of B.C.'s great bear continues everywhere else.

That this year's spring hunt coincides with a B.C. election could bring hope for grizzlies, possibly catalyzing the first change in government wildlife policy in close to two decades. The May 9 election will give B.C. residents the opportunity to ask candidates if they will end the grizzly hunt if elected. So far, the B.C. NDP and Green Party say they would ban grizzly trophy hunting (but allow grizzly hunting for food), whereas the B.C. Liberals continue to defend and promote the trophy hunt as "well-managed," despite scientific evidence to the contrary.

The fate of B.C.'s grizzlies is too important to be a partisan issue. All politicians should support protection. Rough-and-tumble politics this election season might finally end B.C.'s cruel and unsustainable grizzly bear trophy hunt. It's time to stop this grisly business.

April 27, 2017

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Aug 15, 2017
7:15 PM

We’ll see how many problem bears are killed, and how many more outdoor enthusiasts are attacked and mauled. Yes there will be more of the ferocious killers walking among us and their only goal in life is to murder and eat. Elk populations will suffer just as the moose have with BC’s wolf infestation.

May 03, 2017
6:06 PM

Why is there no on-line petition to sign that will be sent to the BC government and Federal government asking for a ban on all hunting in federal and provincial parks? If there not going to be an on-line petition then please tell us who we can write to asking for action to be taken to stop this.

Apr 29, 2017
11:43 AM

There is no logical, ethical reason to kill any animal unless it is for your own safety of life!!! All animals are trying to survive to reproduce as humans do and to get food to survive. They do not kill for no stupid reason as humans do. They don’t kill for the sport to hang another head on their walls as humans do. They don’t kill to put fur on their back since they have what God gave them for themselves. Only mankind is ruthless to take away from others and to display what is not their. Please stop killing innocent animals.

Apr 28, 2017
1:16 PM

It’s appalling that the hunt of these iconic animals is still allowed, presumably because of the revenue hunters leave in the province. Surely this would be more than offset by the dollars brought by tourists, naturalists and photographers, to say nothing of the compelling moral reasons for letting the bears live and breed.

I already support the Foundation monthly to the extent i can afford. Pleas continue your great work.

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