British Columbia Defends Reduced Griz Hunt

BC News, Bear Hunting Magazine

The government of British Columbia has extended its no-hunting area for grizzly bears to a total of 1.9 million hectares (a hectare is an unit of area equal to 10000 square meters) on the north and central coast, and is rejecting calls for a complete ban.

The decision also identifies 170,000 hectares to be closed to black bear hunting after this spring's hunt, which ends June 30, 2009. The kermode bear, a light-coloured variant of the black bear, is protected from all hunting.

Environment Minister Barry Penner says the decision is the result of "government-to-government" discussions with coastal British Columbia aboriginal communities, coming out of the 2006 agreement on the North and Central Coast, an area popularly known as the Great Bear Rainforest.

The Haida Nation and other North and Central Coast aboriginal groups have joined a call by Humane Society International to end "trophy hunting" of grizzlies. Penner said when he met with their representatives in February, he attempted to make a distinction between visitors and resident hunters, but they are opposed to all bear hunting.

"They don't mind if people are actually using the animals to eat them, but they feel that even the British Columbia Wildlife Federation members, the residents, are hunting them for sport, so they want that stopped," Penner said.

Hunting opponents claim they have support of all coastal aboriginal people, but the Nanwakolas Council representing southern coastal people has indicated it supports a limited hunt, Penner said.

The environment ministry accounts for aboriginal bear hunting in its grizzly bear management program, calculating that the British Columbia population can sustain nine per cent mortality by humans. The ministry's limit is no more than six per cent, including road and railway kills as well as hunting.

There were 317 grizzlies killed in 2008 under the limited-entry lottery hunt supervised by the ministry, a 13 per cent reduction from 2007. The 2008 total represents two per cent of the British Columbia population, according to ministry wildlife biologists.

While some opponents say killing bears for sport is simply wrong, there is also a debate over the economics of grizzly hunting.

The Commercial Bear Viewing Association says a single ecotourist bear watching operation in Knight Inlet grossed more than $3 million in 2007, which they say exceeds all trophy hunting revenue to British Columbia in the same year.

Scott Ellis, manager of the Guide Outfitters Association of British Columbia, says the province allocates 60 percent of the annual hunt to resident hunters, with commercial users getting the remainder. That 40 percent share is divided among some of British Columbia's 233 guide outfitters, who target old male grizzlies in a hunt that strengthens the population, he said.

Guide outfitting revenue for all hunting contributes $120 million annually to the British Columbia economy, mostly in rural areas, the association says.

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