Members of the Nuxalk Nation Quentin Hans, Shane Mack, and Jason Moody erected this sign near the Bella Coola wharf last June. They have declared trophy hunting closed in their traditional territory since 2012 (Michael Wigle photo)

BC government to end grizzly bear trophy hunt after fall 2017

The trophy hunt will not end until after this fall’s scheduled hunt.

The newly formed NDP government has just announced it will end grizzly bear trophy hunting in the province; but not until after this fall’s scheduled hunt.

This year’s grizzly hunting season is set to open Tuesday in the Peace River region. Other parts of the province will be open to grizzly hunting at the beginning of September.

In a press release issued last week, the province pledged to end all trophy hunting effective Nov. 30, 2017. This will end grizzly bear trophy hunting throughout the province and stop all hunting of grizzlies in the Great Bear Rainforest, Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Minister Doug Donaldson announced today.

“By bringing trophy hunting of grizzlies to an end, we’re delivering on our commitment to British Columbians,” Donaldson said. “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.”

The decision to end the trophy hunt was met with general enthusiasm, but many environmental groups continue to question the reasons behind allowing a meat hunt to continue outside the Great Bear Rainforest, especially when it’s well-known that grizzlies are not generally hunted for their flesh.

“There are an estimated 15,000 grizzly bears in British Columbia,” the release reads. “Each year, approximately 250 are taken by hunters. While the trophy hunt will end, hunting for meat will be allowed to continue.”

The province said it plans to close “loopholes” by forbidding meat hunters to keep the head, paws and hide of a grizzly should a hunter try to conduct a trophy hunt under the guise of a meat hunt.

Green MLA Andrew Weaver was critical of the announcement, calling out the government for what he called a “political” decision that wasn’t based on science.

Weaver said foreign hunters will still be able to shoot grizzlies in B.C., “take a picture of themselves standing over the dead beast, and head back home without harvesting any of the animal.”

“I’m not sure how this will appease the concerns of anyone. It appears to me that the NDP were trying to play to environmental voters in the election campaign without thinking through their policies,” Weaver said. “What we really need in B.C. is science-based approach to wildlife management, not a populist approach to species management.”

Ian McAllister, co-founder of Pacific Wild, said: “It is good news for the Great Bear Rainforest, but the issue of packing out the meat is such a shame.”

During the fall months, Donaldson said that government will consult with First Nations and stakeholder groups to determine next steps and mechanisms as B.C. moves toward ending the trophy hunt. Additionally, government will be moving forward with a broader consultation process on a renewed wildlife management strategy for the province.

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice is commending the New Democrat government for announcing that the grizzly bear trophy hunt in BC is coming to an end.

“This is a promise our government made to the citizens of British Columbia and I’m happy to know that not only will this end the grizzly trophy hunt in our province, but also ends all grizzly bear hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest,” Rice said. “This will be the last time we see the grizzly trophy hunt in B.C.”

Coastal First Nations, which has long been pushing for an end to the hunt, said it “commends” the BC government for the decision, despite one last trophy hunting season going ahead.

Jess Housty, a member of the Bear Working Group and CFN board member, said it is about time the trophy hunt has been banned. “We have been clear killing bears for sport is not part of our culture. It is disappointing that hunters are going to be out on our lands killing bears before the ban comes in effect.”

“While the new ban won’t take effect until Nov. 30, 2017, we believe ending the trophy bear hunt will be good for BC and coastal economies,” says Bear Working Group member and Kitasoo Chief Douglas Neasloss.

The ban supports our Indigenous laws as well coastal economies as we continue to build longterm sustainable industries such as tourism,” he said. “The archaic practice of shooting bears for sport is disgusting and I hope the NDP position will set an example for others to follow.”

“I am glad to see the BC Government has secured a place for bears in the Great Bear rainforest,” adds Neasloss. “After all, it’s not the Great Bear Rainforest without bears.”

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