Wednesday, April 17, 2013

1996-05-07 "Help our Grizzlies; stop hunting them"

May 7, 1996, Tues.
The Vancouver Sun
by Nicholas Read

Help our Grizzlies; stop hunting them

Moe Sihota, the provincial environment minister, has taken steps toward protecting Grizzly bears. No one can deny that. He’s announced a new Grizzly bear reserve in Tweedsmuir Park, increased fines for poachers, banned Grizzly hunting in the Okanagan and Southern Selkirks, and established a limited-entry hunting season for Grizzlies.

There is also no disputing that Grizzlies need protection. There are only 4,000-13,000 left in the province - estimates vary according to source - and unless serious steps are taken to ensure that they survive, they won’t.

What is at issue, however, is whether Sihota has done enough.

According to the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, he hasn’t. WCWC campaigner Anthony Marr says the maximum poaching penalty of $25,000, though higher than the previous $10,000, is still merely “a slap on the wrist”, and the 103 hectare Tweedsmuir reserve, while welcome, isn’t anywhere near what Grizzlies need to exist.

The WCWC also says that all sport hunting should be abolished.

That certainly would be the easiest, and arguably least contentious, move the government could make. An Angus Reed poll conducted last year said 78% of British Columbians believe trophy hunting should be outlawed.

That would affect Grizzlies directly, says BC Wildlife Branch chief Ray Demarchi, because Grizzly meat is not fit to eat, meaning the only reason hunters have to kill a Grizzly is for its head, hide and claws.

Yet, Grizzly hunting continues in part because officials like Demarchi, hunters themselves, wish it.

He is a third-generation hunter whose sons have followed his lead. SO you have to take that into account when he explains why Grizzly hunting is permitted.

First: There is a “recreational demand” for it, he says. So people simply like killing bears. Demarchi can’t say why - hunting’s allure is hard to define - but it’s there. As proof, he says 400 BC residents and 1,200 non-residents seek permits to kill a Grizzly each year. About 350 to 400 bears are actually slaughtered legally.

Second: Grizzly hunting gives employment to guide-outfitters and hunting supply stores, Demarchi says.

Third: Hunting makes bears more wary of humans and therefore less likely to invade urban areas where they could be shot as nuisance animals, he believes. However, he concedes there is no scientific evidence for this.

His points are in direct contrast to a ground-breaking, 10-year study of Grizzlies completed in 1992 by biologist Robert Wielgus who concluded that trophy hunting can have a severely deleterious effect on Grizzly populations.

Because government regulations forbid the killing of female bears with cubs, most hunted Grizzlies are large males. Conventional government wisdom says by killing large males there will be more food available for mother bears and cubs.

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