B.C. Places Immediate Ban On Grizzly Bear Hunting

British Columbia has passed an immediate ban on Grizzly Bear hunting, with the exception of First Nations people. This ban officially came into affect on Nov. 30th, 2017 following the close of the fall hunting season.

As hunters we are generally willing to stand behind a decision such as this one if it were for  reasons based on science and in the interest of conservation. However, this ban has been passed for social reasons rather than scientific ones.

B.C. Forests Minister Doug Donaldson said public consultations have made it clear that killing grizzlies cannot be allowed, with the exception of First Nations who hunt for treaty rights or for food, social and ceremonial reasons.

Donaldson says “It is no longer socially acceptable to the vast majority of British Columbians to hunt grizzly bears…”

This leaves the hunting and conservation community with a LOAD of questions.

For starters, what does this mean for the guides and outfitters that rely on this hunt to make a living? Many are already complaining that this ban will put them out of business.

Executive director of the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C., Scott Ellis says “The repercussions for those who work in the hunting and guiding industry will be significant”

“The government unfortunately looked to polls and engagement websites to make this decision,” he said, adding that “some operators in rural B.C. will likely go out of business as a result of the ban.”

Second is, on what grounds does a decision like this get passed. One would expect an immediate ban to be a reflection of a critical environmental emergency. This, however, is not the case and the opposition is appalled.

The Opposition Liberals condemned the NDP’s decision, which it claims was prompted by push-back from environmentalists who are angry about a separate matter related to the move forward with the Site C dam, a controversial hydroelectric mega-project in the province’s northeast.

Opposition politicians John Rustad and Peter Milobar said in a statement that “It’s sad to see the NDP have abandoned scientific-based decision making in favour of political calculus designed to appease U.S.-based environmental groups,”

Milobar also questioned the findings of the poll that showed widespread opposition to the hunt, saying respondents may have been confused between meat hunting and trophy hunting. (B.C. had placed a ban on trophy hunting of Grizzly Bears earlier this year which dictated that it was unlawful for any hunter to possess the head, hide or paws of a Grizzly. In otherwords, they were to be harvested for meat only.)

“If that’s how we’re going to start making wildlife conservation policy in this province, I don’t think we need a minister of environment anymore, we need an online polling company.” Stated Milobar.

The announcement came two months after B.C.’s auditor general released a report calling on the province to develop a more robust wildlife management strategy for grizzlies. The report noted a lack of population monitoring and described habitat loss as the number 1 threat facing the bears, NOT hunting.

B.C.’s Auditor General, Carole Bellringer, says in a report that expansion of communities and in industries such as oil and gas and forestry makes it more difficult for grizzlies to flourish.

There are currently around 15,000 Grizzly Bears in the province. Of those, around 300 are harvested each year by hunters.

Donaldson himself admits that this decision was not made due to an unsustainable population.

So our next question is this: If the 1 threat faced by bears is habitat loss, why does the bear hunt get placed in the cross hairs? Why then is the government not stepping in to protect more of this precious habitat? Why isn’t the oil industry being targeted in this matter?

Perhaps it’s because the anti-hunting community is willing to look the other way when something they want or need is at stake. Oil and forestry are necessary evils in their every-day way of life. So perhaps targeting the hunting community is the simple way of making restitution for looking the other way for the oil tycoons. Sure it’s easy for people to draw the line that; since we can’t stop our own population growth or go without oil and lumber, the next best way to protect the bear population is to stop hunting. But here is where scientific reason, in our opinion, goes out the window.

As our own populations grow and encroach on the natural wildlife’s habitat, we upset the balance. It is, therefore, our responsibility to maintain the balance. Banning the hunting of a predator species while allowing the harvesting of the prey population is an upset to the balance. It goes without saying that a rise in the predator populations will adversely affect the prey populations. Then how long before this creates a need for immediate action to protect those other species?

Scott Ellis stated that “Wildlife management is complex, and when emotions get involved lots of times we don’t make the best decisions.”

We have seen these emotions flare most recently in the response to Steve Ecklund’s photos of the cougar he legally and ethically harvested. The surprise is that the emotional responses began flooding in after Laureen Harper, wife of former Prime Minister Steven Harper, publicly berated Ecklund attacking him personally on twitter and using vulgar terms of sexual harassment to do so.

Ironically, in a 2015 Report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, published by the House of Commons under the authority of the speaker of the house during Harper’s time in office we read the following;

Several witnesses suggested that the animal rights movement poses a concern to the hunting and trapping community. They felt that animal rights legislation or policies are not based on sound science and should not impose arbitrary bans or changes to hunting or trapping practices. The European Union ban on the trade of seal products was held up as an example of legislation based on “a stigmatization of sealing by the anti-use industries.”

Contrary to what the general public believes, research is showing bear populations are actually increasing in some areas of the province, according to Mike Morris, MLA for Prince George-Mackenzie.

We also feel it is worth mentioning that more grizzly bears are killed each year in the province due to human-bear conflict than by hunters. This conflict is the direct result of the removal and development of bear habitat. Leaving the number of animals unchecked will undoubtedly increase these interactions and result in more bears being culled each year by authorities.

So our last question is: What happens when our government decides it’s no longer socially acceptable to hunt at all? We are on that slope. We saw it last year when Alberta banned spear hunting due to social agendas. Now B.C. is banning the hunting of an entire species due to social pressure. Are we ok with our government allowing our rights to be dictated by opposing social groups and agendas?

We would love to hear your comments and ideas on how we can strive to affect change and to help secure our rights for the future. Leave your comments below.

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