President of the Northwest Guide Outfitters Ron Fleming at the awards presentation in Smithers Dec. 2. (Michael Grace-Dacosta photo)

Local guides aren’t happy with grizzly ban

Guides say new ban could end businesses, including first nations outfitters and float planes.

Tyler Berry won what appears to be the Northwest Guide Outfitters last award for best grizzly bear Dec. 2.

“It took us 50 hours on horseback, 10 days of grueling hunting, it didn’t come easy,” said Berry of the journey to get the bear. “I’ve been in the bush for 13 years, since I was 17. I’m 30 now and that was my first grizzly guided hunt that I’ve done and it could be the last.”

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development said while the ban on trophy hunting is in effect, the regulations are currently being finalized.

Under the ban it is illegal for a hunter to keep a grizzly’s head, paws or hide after a kill.

“In October, we launched a consultation process to help inform regulation development with respect to the future of the grizzly bear hunt in British Columbia,” Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Doug Donaldson said in a statement last Friday.

“Based on the feedback received, we’re assessing all input and will be releasing a consultation report, including any new policy direction in the near future.”

Previously, B.C. residents could apply for permits to hunt grizzlies in certain designated areas under a lottery system. People living outside the province could only hunt grizzlies if they hired a guide outfitter.

“It just knocks the wind out of you because conservation-wise we’ve been really looking after bears,” said president of the Northwest Guide Outfitters Ron Fleming. “We brought the population up high [and were] doing great and you lose it all just because of a social issue on election. “

According to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, while over 3,000 permits are issued each year, only 250 bears are killed by hunters a year.

They’re are an estimated 15,000 grizzlies in the province.

The Province said they didn’t make this decision because the grizzlies were in danger but because a majority British Columbians oppose trophy hunting.

An online survey, conducted by Insights West in partnership with Lush Cosmetics and the Commercial Bear Viewing Association, at the end of August found 74 per cent of the over 800 participants from across the province said they would support a total ban on hunting grizzly bears.

The study was conducted from August 27 to August 30, 2017, approximately two weeks after the provincial government announced the ban. The margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

“I don’t believe in sport hunting, if you’re going to kill something it better be self-defense or because you’re really hungry,” said local musician Lori Koop. “They’re sentient creatures; we have no business just shooting them for the fun of it —that’s just sick.”

Fleming said the provincial government didn’t fully anticipate how much banning trophy hunting would cost the Province in revenue and how it would affect businesses.

According to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, the hunting industry contributes approximately $350 million annually to the province.

Of the $7 million in hunting license fees the Province collected, just over $2 million went to the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund for conservation projects. License fees also raised $230,000 a year for the Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy which was then allocated to priority grizzly bear research, inventory and monitoring projects.

“It’s affecting the float plane business,” said Fleming. “They could be out of business because you’re taking 25 per cent of his revenue away … They didn’t realize that 26 first nations are outfitters. They’re out of business too.”

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