Stop the Trophy Hunt
There are few experiences more awe-inspiring than the sight of a grizzly bear in its natural environment. The opportunity to see bears in the wild draws thousands of international tourists to Canada each year. Yet despite evidence that bear populations are shrinking, the government of B.C. continues to allow this iconic animal to be recklessly hunted and killed for sport.
The more you learn about bear populations in B.C., the more appalling the idea of trophy hunting becomes. Bears are vulnerable to population decline. Once numbering an estimated 35,000 in B.C., grizzly populations have been reduced to anywhere from 6,000 to 15,000. Government science used to estimate populations, and therefore set hunting quotas, is in dispute, and nobody knows exactly how many grizzlies remain. Yet every year trophy hunters shoot between 300 and 400 grizzlies. The combined pressure of hunting, habitat fragmentation, urbanization and other human-caused disturbance has already removed them from considerable portions of their traditional habitat in British Columbia. Economics are on the side of grizzlies. It's been clearly demonstrated that a live grizzly is worth more to the economy, in terms of tourism generation, than one killed for sport.
For these reasons, in September 2012, First Nations in the Great Bear Rainforest announced a ban on bear trophy hunting. An overwhelming body of evidence supports their view that this hunt is unethical, unwanted and unwise. Public pressure is mounting. Now’s the time to let the Canadian authorities know that the killing must end before B.C.’s bears are pushed to the brink of extinction.
Five reasons why trophy hunting must be stopped
Anyway you look at it – whether from an ethical, scientific, economic or conservation perspective – a ban on trophy hunting in B.C. is the only sustainable option.
Bears are vulnerable: A combination of natural characteristics and outside threats put bears at a high risk of population decline. A typical female may give birth to a maximum of ten cubs over her lifetime, half of which usually die within a year. Surviving cubs usually remain with the mother for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years, during which time the mother will not mate. Grizzlies have large territories, as much as 4,000 square kilometres for adult males, making them sensitive to logging, roads and railroads, land development and other habitat impacts. Nine of the province's 57 grizzly population units are listed as threatened. To make matters worse, bears must deal with the pressures of declining salmon stocks on B.C.’s coast, loss of habitat, conflicts with humans, and the danger of road and railway accidents. Bears’ vulnerability has already led to their being extirpated from 18% of their historic range in B.C., and local populations are threatened elsewhere in the province.
Sound science says the hunt can’t be sustained: The B.C. government claims that trophy hunting is sustainable. However, the method used to estimate bear populations, estimates upon which bear-kill quotas are based, is flawed. Not only do we not know how many bears are out there, but a recent study suggests that bears are being overkilled, even according to government limits. The official estimate puts the current number of bears in British Columbia at 15,000. This figure is calculated using a predictive model based on ground surveys carried out in only a few areas; it is neither an accurate count nor a reliable estimate. Many independent scientists believe that the true number of grizzlies is much lower, too low to support the current level of hunting in addition to other human-caused mortality. A study into bear management in B.C., released in 2013, suggests that trophy hunting may be reducing bear populations. A group of scientists, led by Kyle Artelle, found evidence that in half the populations they studied, more bears were being killed than government quotas allowed: “Although these were caused by a mix of hunting and other human-caused kills – road and rail accidents, self-defense kills, 'problem bear' kills and so on – we found that almost all overkills could have been prevented by reducing or eliminating the hunt.”
Living bears are worth more: The old argument that the trophy hunt is a major boost to B.C.’s economy has been seriously undermined by the latest research. A study by the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) found that bear viewing in the Great Bear Rainforest generates far more economic value than bear hunting. In 2012, visitors spent 12 times less on bear hunting than they did on viewing. CREST also reported that bear viewing companies directly employed an estimated 510 people in 2012, in contrast to hunting guide outfitters, who created a mere 11 jobs.
Grizzly bears are an integral part of the ecosystems where they live: They help to distribute the ocean-derived nutrients in salmon carcasses through riparian forests, producing bigger, healthier trees. They help to keep prey population levels in check and disperse seeds of many plants and berries. The health of an ecosystem can be measured by the health of the grizzly population it contains. However at current rates of habitat loss and fragmentation, we stand to lose most of the grizzlies from half of the province over the next 40 years.
The vast majority support a ban: Bear trophy hunting is completely at odds with the values of Coastal First Nations. Sport hunters will often take only a bear’s head, paws and hide as “trophies,” leaving the rest of the body to rot, or purport to be hunting for food but then feed all the meat to dogs. First Nation’s protocol, however, is only to kill an animal for food, as wasting the meat is considered deeply disrespectful. It’s not just Canadian aboriginal groups who oppose the trophy hunt; a majority of B.C. residents share their belief in the value of bears. The latest poll by McAllister Opinion Research shows that 87% of British Columbians want the trophy hunt banned in the Great Bear Rainforest. Eighty per cent of residents want the ban extended to the entire province.
Your Voice is Needed!
The majority of First Nations groups, B.C. residents and tourists have made their opinions clear – they would rather see bear populations thrive, and have people shoot them with cameras rather than guns. The case against trophy hunting is strong and the movement is growing. You could be the tipping point.