VANCOUVER - British Columbia's grizzly bears are coming out of their dens this spring to face growing threats to their existence.
The David Suzuki Foundation has released new official government records that show that a total of 381 grizzly bears were killed in B.C. last year, the majority of which were shot by hunters in the annual legal trophy hunt across the province. A smaller number of bears were killed by animal control officers and in collisions with cars, trains and other vehicles.
British Columbia is one of the last vestiges of fragile grizzly bear territory left in North America and the start of the spring bear hunt this Sunday, as well ongoing industrial development within their sensitive habitat, has the group concerned.
"The continued legal killing of grizzlies for sport here in B.C. is happening at a time when the 'great bear' has perhaps never been more at risk from mega-projects that threaten to degrade and destroy its sensitive habitat," said Dr. Faisal Moola, Director of Terrestrial Conservation at the David Suzuki Foundation.
"Projects such as the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline that will penetrate into the Great Bear Rainforest, and the recently approved Jumbo Glacier Resort in southeastern B.C. will further threaten the survival of grizzlies," Moola adds. "These populations are already under enormous pressure from trophy hunting, increasing conflicts with humans as towns, resorts, and other recreation areas expand into bear habitat, and climate change."
Scientists, such as wildlife expert, Dr. Paul Paquet, with the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, worry that further development of grizzly habitat will put grizzlies at greater risk of conflict with humans as well as provide trophy hunters direct access to vulnerable populations, with further roads and other infrastructure.
"Research has shown that more roads, pipelines, and other human activity inevitably results in more dead bears," said Dr, Paquet. "We need to ensure that large areas are put off limits to trophy hunting and grizzly habitat is protected to ensure a future for this vulnerable species."
Released by the David Suzuki Foundation, official government records indicate that there was a twenty per cent increase in grizzly bear deaths in 2011 from 2010. Eighty-seven per cent of these deaths were attributed to the legal trophy hunting of grizzly bears. Three per cent of recorded grizzly deaths were the result of poaching; yet, research conducted by provincial government biologists indicates that in reality this number could be twice as high.
The David Suzuki Foundation is calling on the provincial government to work with First Nations and others to implement a network of Grizzly Bear Management Areas (GBMAs), bear parks, where the species can roam, feed and breed without the threat of trophy hunting and further degradation of their sensitive habitat from development activities, such as mining, oil and gas production and transport and new resorts.
Though a central plank in the government's official Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy since 1995, only one GBMA, has been established in the province to date by a previous NDP government—the Khutzeymateen/K'tzim-a-Deen Bear Sanctuary in the Great Bear Rainforest. Three additional no-hunting zones were later created by a subsequent Liberal government in the Great Bear Rainforest, but these zones are temporary and do not fully protect the animal's habitat.
The David Suzuki Foundation continues to encourage the government to meet its commitment to establish a province-wide network of grizzly bear reserves (GBMAs) that will protect both bear habitat and the bears themselves from being killed.
For further information, please contact:
Dr. Faisal Moola, Director, Terrestrial Conservation, David Suzuki Foundation and University of Toronto
Jodi Garwood, Communications Specialist, David Suzuki Foundation
(604) 732-4228 ext 1281
Dr. Paul Paquet, Senior Scientist, Raincoast Conservation Foundation and University of Calgary.