Within hours of announcing their ill-considered “ban” on grizzly bear trophy hunting, the B.C. NDP had a party fundraising pitch out on social media. Taxpayer-funded government ads soon followed.
Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson was marched out to make the announcement, repeating a thin list of talking points dictated from Premier John Horgan’s office. For this, Donaldson was diverted from the raging forest fires he has faced since assuming responsibility for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations a month ago.
Donaldson insisted that B.C.’s grizzly hunt is not used as a wildlife management tool. It’s not? So why was the grizzly bear quota increased last year? To sell a few more tags and guided safaris to vacationing NHL hockey players, as some in the Vancouver media seem to believe?
The quota was increased because the population is growing, and a proliferation of grizzlies has significant effects on other animals, and on people. Seeing grizzly sows with triplets is a good indicator, as is a B.C. study done last year by wildlife biologists at the University of Alberta and the University of Minnesota.
Donaldson insisted the lottery grizzly hunt is not used to manage the population, and that the harvest level is based on what is sustainable. I guess he can’t see the contradiction there. He avoided admitting that this fall’s hunt is going ahead and compensation will have to be paid for guide-outfitter territories so the NDP government won’t get sued.
Meat hunting for grizzlies will still be allowed, but the hide, head and paws must be left behind. Demand for grizzly meat has dropped sharply since the Stone Age wrapped up.
Professional protesters trumpeted another victory. Urban folks swooned. “This makes me feel good,” said one, precisely capturing the true intent of this gesture. Some rural people might not feel so good, not to mention the Conservation Officers faced with shooting “problem bears” forced down to populated valley bottoms in search of survival.
Donaldson’s northern neighbour, Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad, was aboriginal relations minister in the last government. Aboriginal leaders have told him rising populations are a problem in some remote regions.
“We’ve interfered with nature,” Rustad said. “We’ve built cities, we’ve built roads, we have resource development. So we need to be able to manage species based on science. They do this even with the black rhino in Africa and other species around the world.”
Then there are the declining moose populations in the B.C. Interior, subject to a study ongoing for years. Moose, not the 200-odd grizzlies taken in an average year, are the staple of B.C.’s resident and guided hunting. Grizzlies and other predators target moose calves in spring.
“You’ve got farmers, ranchers in the Cariboo that have lost livelihood because of major fires,” Rustad said. “A number of these people also guide-outfit or are involved in hunting.”
Donaldson stressed a ban on all grizzly hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest, something that was essentially done already in conjunction with the American environmentalists who front for most of the aboriginal communities there.
That does not include the Nisga’a Nation, which operates its own guide-outfitter business nearby, with spring and fall hunts for mountain goat, black bears and grizzlies. In fact all aboriginal people are exempt from provincial wildlife regulations.
This winter the NDP government will face a decision to continue the wolf kill that is attempting to salvage remnant caribou herds in the Kootenay and Peace regions. Will that also be cancelled to make urban voters feel good?
Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @tomfletcherbc