The B.C. government has announced that it will end grizzly bear trophy hunting throughout the province as of November 30, 2017, when this year’s hunting season ends, and stop all hunting of grizzlies in the Great Bear Rainforest.
While the trophy hunt will end, hunting grizzlies for meat will be allowed to continue in the rest of the province; and this decision is not sitting well with BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver.
Natural Resources Minister Doug Donaldson said “It is time” to end the trophy hunting of grizzly bears. About 250 grizzlies are killed annually by hunters in B.C., a number Donaldson said is “sustainable” for the population, which is estimated at 15,000 bears.
He added that public opinion on the practice has turned. “It’s not a matter of numbers, it’s a matter of society has come to the point in B.C. where they are no longer in favour of the grizzly bear trophy hunt.
“By bringing trophy hunting of grizzlies to an end, we’re delivering on our commitment to British Columbians. This action is supported by the vast majority of people across our province.
“In particular, we owe it to generations past and future to do all we can to protect the beauty and uniqueness of the Great Bear Rainforest. We believe the action we’re taking goes beyond the commitment to Coastal First Nations made as part of the 2016 Great Bear Rainforest agreements.”
Donaldson said that government will consult with First Nations and stakeholder groups during the fall months, to determine next steps and mechanisms. Additionally, government will be moving forward with a broader consultation process on a renewed wildlife management strategy for the province.
“The key elements of that strategy will include dedicated funding for wildlife and habitat conservation and a collaborative process in developing short and long-term plans for wildlife resources,” Donaldson said.
It is not known how many of the 250 grizzlies killed annually are hunted as trophies or for meat. When asked how hunting would be policed, Donaldson said the exact regulations had yet to be determined.
“There’s not going to be any loopholes,” he said. “Hunters will no longer be able to possess the hide or the head or the paws of the grizzly bear.” It is not clear what hunters will be expected to do with those bear parts, but the government has said they will not be leaving the province.
The move is being applauded by the BC SPCA. “The decision to end grizzly bear trophy hunting is a big step in the right direction,” says BC SPCA chief scientific officer Dr. Sara Dubois. “It demonstrates the change in people’s opinions about trophy hunting.”
However, Mark Werner of the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C., says he is disappointed that his group was not consulted extensively during development of the new regulations, and argues that the true threat to grizzly populations isn’t hunting.
“If you want to do something great for grizzly bears, let’s work on habitat. Shutting down small businesses in this province isn’t going to help grizzly bears,” Werner said.
The announcement was slammed by BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, who says that the NDP’s proposal does not address many key issues, since the hunt will continue.
“Hunters go in and will be frustrated because they’re not allowed to harvest the entire animal. And it means environmental people who have been pushing for a ban on the hunt will be frustrated because the hunt will continue. And guide outfitters will be frustrated because they don’t know what’s going on.
“You could still go and shoot a grizzly and leave it all there, as far as they’ve articulated so far. So, it actually doesn’t do anything. It just basically says, ‘You can go and shoot a grizzly, you can sit on the grizzly and have your picture taken, but you cannot own or possess the head or hide,’” Weaver adds.
This year’s grizzly hunt has already started, and the government says the ban is not taking place before the season because there was not enough time to give notice after this year’s protracted provincial election. Although the election took place on May 9, it did not produce a new government until mid-July.