Every spring season in British Columbia, just as grizzly bears emerge from winter hibernation in search of food, hunters eager for a trophy set their sights on the vulnerable animals. The spring hunt is followed by another hunt in the fall, which together are responsible for between 300-400 grizzlies being killed for trophy every year. Ethical, ecological and economic arguments against the practice have created strong opposition to the trophy hunt, with a new Insights West poll indicating that 90% of British Columbians support enacting legislation that would ban trophy hunting.
Grizzlies are hunted recreationally for trophy – for their hide, head or paws, with the rest of the bear often being disposed of or left to rot. Although it is frowned upon to shoot female grizzlies, it is nearly impossible to distinguish males from females. In fact, research has shown that one-third of reported kills by trophy hunters are female. Shooting a fertile female is the equivalent of killing all the cubs she would have given birth to over the course of her life. Beyond the inability of trigger-happy trophy hunters to distinguish between male and female bears, is the reality that young cubs are often safely hidden out of sight, leaving them to starve or be killed by predators when their mother is shot. In 2012, multiple Coastal First Nations placed a ban on grizzly trophy hunting in their territories, citing the practice’s failure to align with their cultural values, stewardship and sustainability.
This so-called “sport” targets the species with the lowest reproduction rate of North American land mammals. The province’s grizzly population numbers are a point of debate, with government scientists using an outdated and flawed population model that is believed to overestimate grizzly numbers. While they argue there are roughly 15,000 grizzlies throughout BC, independent scientists believe there could be as few as 6,000-8,000. Grizzlies have already been extirpated from roughly 18% of their original habitat across the province and 9 sub-populations are currently threatened with extirpation. Furthermore, a recent study found that the provincial government is failing to keep grizzly bear mortalities below its own targets. This combination of factors threatens to wipe out this iconic and ecologically-significant species.
The hunt threatens a major revenue-generating industry for the province. Eco-tourism attracts thousands of people to British Columbia each year and creates jobs in communities where the unemployment rate is high. Bear viewing contributed approximately $9.5 million to provincial GDP in 2012.Meanwhile, the 2014 Stanford-CREST study suggests revenue generated by grizzly trophy hunting fees and licences fails to cover the province’s management costs for the hunt. In effect, B.C. taxpayers, 90% of whom oppose the hunt, are forced to subsidize the slaughter of grizzlies for trophy. Not only is the trophy hunt a poor economic decision, but bear hunting and bear viewing cannot co-exist. That at any given time the same bear being viewed can be shot for a trophy reflects this.
British Columbia’s provincial election, set for May 9th, 2017, is fast approaching and it’s more important now than ever to push for a provincial ban on the highly controversial grizzly bear hunt. We’ve put together a toolkit intended to empower the vast majority of British Columbians opposed to the hunt in making it an election issue. We’ll help you organize a local screening of Lush Cosmetics’ short documentary, “Trophy”; host a letter/email-writing night; hand out leaflets at events or in public gathering places; and utilize our template letters to contact election candidates and call for their support for a ban on the hunt.
We’re here to provide logistical support and help you connect with others in your community who want to see the hunt banned, so check out our TrophyFreeBC toolkit and contact us to get started! Not from British Columbia but still want to take action? Get in touch with us! You can also donate to help us organize outreach efforts in the lead up to the election.
Together we can put BC’s grizzly bear hunt where it belongs – in the past!
By Emily Pickett, President of the Board of Directors of Wildlife Defence League