Monday, April 5, 2010

Searching for the Truth behind the Bear Hunt

A few weeks ago I received an email from the David Suzuki Foundation (I am on their mailing list) imploring me to send a pre-typed email to our provincial representatives demanding that the trophy hunt of Grizzly bears be stopped in this province. It seemed like a no brainer to me. I don't agree with trophy hunting. Hunting for food is one thing but hunting to hang a "prize" on your wall is not my idea of a sport. Especially when the hunters lie in wait behind a shield for bears just waking from their winter hibernation to emerge before shooting them with a high powered rifle.

I signed the letter and sent it and was mildly proud that I had put my name behind a cause that I believed in. Fast forward a week and I'm reading our local paper and in the editorial section is a headline reading "Debate needs facts, not emotion" written by Mel Arnold, president of the B.C Wildlife Federation. Here is a link to the article in another paper entitled "Spring bear hunt needs science, not opinion" I read the article and I grew concerned over my actions. I had sent an email trusting the David Suzuki Foundation's word and not doing any research myself to back up the claims. Perhaps they were exaggerating, maybe they had an agenda...I doubted that either of those things were true but I did feel obliged to look into it and see if Mel Arnold had a point.

My first area of research was looking at the B.C Wildlife Federation website. They are a collective of people who hunt and fish. Here is how they define themselves on their website:

"The BC Wildlife Federation is a province-wide voluntary conservation organization of hunters, anglers and recreational shooters, representing all British Columbians whose aims are to protect, enhance and promote the wise use of the environment for the benefit of present and future generations."

By "wise use" I assume they mean hunting responsibly and protecting the ecosystems they are fishing or hunting in. Right now they have a lovely photograph of Grizzly bears catching fish in a river on the main page. The science and facts referred to in both titles of Mr. Arnold's article are no where to be found however.

Next my search lead to The David Suzuki Foundation's website where they have details listed of their research and what numbers they are using to make their claims. Here I found facts and they did not indicate that Mr. Arnold's claims are true. In fact the more research I did the more I found to dispute his claim that:

"Contrary to claims there is no 'slaughter,' there never has been; the B.C government manages wildlife based on science. Grizzly bear populations in B.C are steadily expanding to where there are now viable numbers in 90 percent or more of their historical range."

In the research I have found "viable numbers" is not a fact. The viable number is variable and the amount of kills being made by humans are exceeding the recommended numbers in 63% of local Grizzly bear populations.

The United States has banned trophy hunting Grizzlies. British Columbia remains one of the last places on earth that is graced by this majestic bear. Grizzlies are vulnerable to sport hunting because they have a very slow reproductive rate with females only birthing their first litters of cubs between age 5 and 8 and their litters are rarely larger than 4 cubs. Cubs then remain attached to the mother for up to 3 years meaning that females do not have more cubs for another relatively large span of time. Male Grizzlies range over areas as large as 4000 square kilometres and that makes them very susceptible to habitat fragmentation that continues to put wildlife at risk.

There is research for anyone looking for it and numbers to be weighed. I will list the links I have found for anyone interested in reading more or crunching numbers for themselves. What I find hard to swallow in this debate is that popular opinion is not only based on emotion here and the B.C Wildlife Federation is certainly not without their own agenda.

300 Grizzly bears are killed as trophies every year in B.C and given that fact I believe that the only choice we have as British Columbians and human beings with the responsibility to respect this earth and her creatures is to ban the hunting of Grizzly bears for sport. 300 bears for people to hang on their walls or display as a trophy of prowess and skill is a slaughter. Mr. Arnold can present his opinion as fact but it is not that and defending this practice with claims of economic gain for rural communities and agendas being furthered by the international anti-hunting movement is misleading.

The government of British Columbia needs to stand behind the image presented so idyllically at the Olympics this past February and the way to do that is to realize that letting this hunt go on is wrong not just on an emotional level but also in terms of the facts. This population of Grizzlies that we are supposed to prize can not sustain the hunting that goes on each year and if it continues at this rate we run the risk of damaging the population and the ecosystems these incredible animals participate in.

In the end I found that research led me to feel even more passionate about this subject and I will be sending a letter to the editor of the paper to counter Mr. Arnold's opinion. Obviously I can't research every topic to this extent when called on to take action but in this case I feel that I have found sources that I can trust to relay information that is based on science and is looking out for the marginalized and voiceless ones which in this case are these bears.


British Columbia Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy

Environmental Investigation Agency

Grizzly bears being killed at up to double the number allowed by B.C. government: new research

Take Action

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