The reactions to the August 14 decision from the NDP government to ban the trophy hunting of grizzly bears in the province have begun to surface. Many readers could see this news and automatically think that it would be seen as a win by environmentalists and conservationists, and a blow to hunters. But that might not be the case.
John Bergenske, conservation director at Wildsight — a biodiversity-protection organization founded in 2004, that has existed in other forms in the region since the 1980s, said in an August 15 phone interview with the Townsman that while the organization welcomes the ban of trophy hunting, they remain “quite unclear” as to what allowing a meat hunt will mean.
There are an estimated 15,000 grizzly bears in British Columbia. Each year, approximately 250 are taken by hunters. While the trophy hunt will end, hunting for meat will be allowed to continue.
“It could well result in just continuing the hunt and if the hunters have to turn in the head, paws and the hide, which is what’s been reported from the government so far, they could still just be satisfied with photos of themselves with the kill,” Bergenske said.
He explained that he has found multiple bear carcasses in the bush missing their head, paws and hides after both of the last two grizzly hunts in this region and said that few, if any hunters shoot grizzlies for the meat.
The minister has promised to hold consultations with First Nations and stakeholders in order to determine what steps will be taken with the trophy hunt band and Wildsight will expect to participate in the discussions.
“The issue for grizzly bears, like so many species across the province, is not simply about hunting,” he said, after saying that the biggest component of the announcement was the government’s commitment to moving forward with a broader consultation process on a wildlife management strategy for the province.
“Without significant changes to how we manage the land and the human footprint in British Columbia we will continue to see significant losses to many species,” he said. He added that he thinks the province needs to “take a step back” in order to determine how best to keep healthy wildlife populations in BC by managing not only the predators, but the prey species such as deer, elk, caribou and moose.
“This is going to require a lot more than changes to hunting regulations. Industrial use of the landscape has dominated land use for too long. Its time to end the one off struggles for every remaining patch of old growth forest, wildlife corridor and critical habitats. Land use planning that looks at forestry, mining, roads and access is required with a focus on wildlife.”
Bergenske said that what this announcement represents is the NDP trying to meet election promises that they set out and that if they can be held to the broader issue of wildlife and habitat conservation, a bigger impact can be made.
“While we think that that is an appropriate step given the political time, I think that the real wildlife conservation is yet to take place and we’re looking to make sure that that is really based on good science and is dealing with the whole multitude of species that we have to deal with.”