Eucott Bay, site of a popular hot springs on Dean Channel some 50 km northwest of Bella Coola, should be designated “off limits” to hunting, according to the Bella Coola Valley Tourism Board of Directors. In a unanimous vote at a recent meeting, the Board adopted a motion to pursue a no-hunting status for the area around the hot springs.
The move came following an incident last May during the spring black bear season. At that time, a family lounging at the spring was surprised to see a hunter and a camera crew on the beach opposite where a bear was clearly in view.
The parents, one in a rowboat and the other on foot, approached the hunting party and an altercation ensued during which a shot was fired. The hunting party re-boarded their boat and quickly left the bay. It was later learned that the camera crew were representatives of Remington, a well-known firearms maker.
In a letter to Environment Minister Mary Polak, BCVT President Doug Baker says his board’s decision came after “considerable deliberation.” He says the area “has become increasingly popular with visitors.”
“As an organization promoting the development of tourism in our region we feel such a place should be free from conflict between hunting and recreation,” Baker concludes. “This is not about being pro or anti-hunting, but about safety and the environment of people and wildlife. We fear the potential for further hunter/visitor conflict at this popular and pristine attraction.”
BCVT is not alone in its concerns about the potential for hunter/visitor conflict at Eucott Bay. Megan Moody, Stewardship Director for the Nuxalk Nation, says that reducing hunter/visitor conflict in the area is very important, but that discussions with Nuxalk leadership and the community would need to occur before the Nation could support a ban on all hunting.
However, Moody notes that an alliance of coastal First Nations (Haida Gwaii, Wuikinuxv, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xaixais, Nuxalk, Gitga’at, Metlakatla, Old Massett, Skidegate, and Council of the Haida Nation), have banned the trophy hunting of bears in the Great Bear Rainforest.
Since the decision and it’s posting on BCVT’s Facebook page, the Board had received no negative responses by press time. In the first 10 days following the decision, nearly 6,000 people read the posting, many of them responding with comments praising the move.
Organizations such as Pacific Wild (where 500 “likes” had been posted at press time), the Audubon Society, and Watershed Sentinel (self-described as “Canada’s environmental news magazine”), have also hailed the BCVT decision.
As for the hunting community, Bella Coola Rod and Gun Club President Gary Shelton was unable to take a “formal position” for his organization at this time, but added: “I personally understand why BCVT would want to reduce conflict in such a small zone.” He said that the matter will be discussed by his board after their summer recess.
Even Bella Coola old-timer Clarence Hall (The “Cougar Man”), an avid hunter for most of his 90 years and a Lifetime Member of the North American Hunting Club with a trophy cougar and black bear in the BC record book, agrees with the BCVT stand.
“It’s just common sense,” Hall says. “Hunters shouldn’t hunt in a public place like Eucott Bay or (Vancouver’s) Stanley Park.” Noting that people have been hunting at Eucott Bay for thousands of years, he also notes, “People are visiting the area more and more, and there are plenty of other places to hunt.” Hall would like to see the area developed as a tourist attraction that would bring business into the Central Coast region.
As for those involved in the May confrontation at Eucott Bay, the incident was reported to the BC Conservation Officer service, and those authorities have spoken with the hot springs bathers, who could be charged with “disrupting a hunt” – a violation of the BC Wildlife Act. However, by press time, charges had not been laid.
Disclosure: Clarence Hall is the son of the author, Ernest Hall