The NDP’s ban on the trophy hunting of grizzlies after this season’s hunt has been met with mixed reviews. While it has been heralded by many as a step in the right direction; an indicator of a new government committed to the future of BC’s wildlife, others are more sceptical. Some of those voices on the latter end of the spectrum see it either as a half measure, or a means to appease urban voters with a decision not firmly enough rooted in scientific inquiry.
In the East Kootenays this decision’s impact will be felt by people like David Beranek, a guide outfitter with Packhorse Creek Outfitters who sits on the board of directors for Southern Guide Outfitters. Having been in the hunting business for over 30 years, Beranek has followed this debate closely for a long time.
“I’m a true advocate of healthy grizzly bear populations,” Beranek said. “But like all animals you need that balance. So this is definitely more of a political move than a biological, science-determined move, so I’m a bit perplexed as to why they did it so quickly.”
Beranek echoed the sentiments outlined by MLA Tom Shypitka in his interview with the Townsman, in that the ban does not represent the province as a whole; saying he feels the ban was enacted more to appease the social values of urban voters than to promote realistic wildlife management.
“There used to be grizzly bears in the Fraser Delta,” said Beranek. “There’s not anymore because of human populations, so why do the two million in people Vancouver get to tell the rest of Vancouver, don’t shoot grizzly bears. But where are all the grizzly bears that used to live in the Fraser delta? They don’t exist anymore.”
He said that without the annual bear hunt, which harvests between 200 and 300 bears, the mortality rate will persist for other reasons. He cited examples such as managed kills by conservation officers or other government employees. or unmanned bears killed in defence of life or property.
What he would like to see is population management based on geographic location, saying that if the grizzly population in a specific area is in trouble, you either close the season down or drastically limit the number of permits issued.
“There’s no question that there are areas that bears have been eliminated or the population is very low,” he said. “So close the season or have a very limited season, and then there’s areas with significant populations, you need to manage those differently. Hunting with an intent to try and balance it, it’s never a perfect equation, but it’s the best alternative that we have.”
Beranek said that the trophy ban is also “of significant concern” to his, and other similar businesses, stating that while a hunter who comes to BC may just harvest one bear in their lifetime, they often come back to the province to hunt other game. Beranek said this will have an economic spinoff.
Sparwood resident Joe Tress is now retired but worked in the forest industry his whole career, all over British Columbia as well as other parts of the world.
“I hate the word trophy,” Tress said. “It’s just a political poison pill right now. People will keep the head or the cape and get it mounted as a reminder, not only is it a beautiful animal, but the way taxidermists do things today, it’s a beautiful reminder, and you get the beauty of looking at the animal for many years and then you also get to use the meat as well.”
Tress said that there reason he feels the NDP’s decision is poorly thought out comes down to what he owes as the province not having enough funding for wildlife management models, comparing BC to neighbouring states and provinces.
“They just don’t and The BC Wildlife Federation confirmed clearly that BC is one of the most underfunded in terms of fish and wildlife resources and their habitats for decades. This goes back to the 60s and 70s.”
“When they came out with this sort of political position on grizzly bears during election they had said they have a funding model ready to go, so I’m saying ‘where is it?’” Tress continued. “Why aren’t we implementing that and use good science based information to manage all our big game species, whether they be prey or predator. And that’s where we need to be at.”