B.C. NDP government stopping contentious grizzly bear trophy hunt

The new B.C. government has followed through on their 2016 campaign promise of banning the contentious practice of grizzly bear trophy hunting.

Along with ending grizzly bear trophy hunting, the B.C. NDP announced they would also stop all hunting of grizzlies in the Great Bear Rainforest. Hunting grizzlies for sport was banned in the Great Bear Rainforest by the Coastal First Nations four years ago.

“By bringing trophy hunting of grizzlies to an end, we’re delivering on our commitment to British Columbians,” Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations Minister Doug Donaldson said in a release.

“This action is supported by the vast majority of people across our province. In particular, we owe it to generations past and future to do all we can to protect the beauty and uniqueness of the Great Bear Rainforest. We believe the action we’re taking goes beyond the commitment to Coastal First Nations made as part of the 2016 Great Bear Rainforest agreements.”

Joe Foy of the Wilderness Committee says 4,000 grizzlies have been killed since the previous Liberal government reinstated the trophy hunt 16 years ago.

“It’s been a terrible 16 years especially when you consider grizzly bears have wiped out in the centre of the province. We’re very hopeful that by not killing 250 bears a year we can start bringing the population back to healthy numbers.”

Premier John Horgan made the pledge in November 2016 after a recent poll found 90 per cent of British Columbians were opposed to the hunt, adding the hunt didn’t make economic or environmental sense.

Another poll conducted by Insights West in late January found 74 per cent of voters in five rural ridings with significant hunting traditions said they opposed the trophy hunting of grizzly bears.

The Ministry estimates there are 15,000 grizzly bears in B.C. and each year about 250 are killed by hunters. While the trophy hunt will end, hunting for meat will be allowed to continue.

Horgan’s pledge in 2016 was met with criticism by conservationists. Chris Genovali from the Raincoast Conservation Foundation called it a “pretend to eat the meat policy.”

Ian MacAllister of the group Pacific Wild, which has been fighting to end the grizzly bear hunt for years, said at the time, Horgan’s plan is unenforceable.

“There’s clearly no way to enforce this. The only way they’d be able to do that is to video-monitor a hunter as they ate their grizzly bear dinner, to see if they did in fact consume the meat,” McAllister said.

The ministry said in the coming months Donaldson will be consulting with First Nations and other stakeholders to figure out next steps.

Reaction trickling in on NDP decision

The Commercial Bear Viewing Association (CBVA) said in a written statement that it applauds the new policy and although they believe all grizzly bear hunting is trophy hunting, will look forward to consulting with the B.C. government about next steps.

Meanwhile, the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C. says it’s disappointed the B.C. government is putting an end to grizzly bear trophy hunting after this year’s hunt.

“We are not going to be very supportive. We’re very worried about the ripple effect it will have on small businesses in rural British Columbia,” said executive director Scott Ellis.

He said about 5,000 non-resident hunters visit the province every year, bringing in millions of dollars to hunt different animals.

“We have an aggregate number for general hunting annually, it’s about $350-million.”

He says guide-outfitting is about $120-million of that.

The ban on grizzly bear trophy hunting will take effect on Nov. 30.

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