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Grizzly Bear Advocates Determined to Make Trophy Hunt a Top B.C. Election Issue

Unmistakable grizzly bear prints in the soft sand of English Bay were enough to stop some dog walkers in their tracks Tuesday.

But, it was sculptor George Rammell, art instructor at Capilano University, marching down the beach, making prints with casts of bear paws strapped to his feet.

“There aren’t going to be bears out there if we keep on the way we are going,” Rammell, one of a growing number of British Columbians committed to stopping the province’s grizzly bear trophy hunt, said.

“Imagine if B.C. was a grizzly bear sanctuary, what a message it would send to the world,” Rammell said at the launch of Justice for B.C. Grizzlies, a newly formed group that Tweet: .@Justice4BCGrizz says: lobby sitting politicians & candidates in lead up to #BCelxn2017! http://bit.ly/2cnON7n #bcpoli #trophyhuntwants supporters to actively lobby sitting politicians and candidates in the upcoming provincial election and then vote for those who support scrapping the hunt.

The Liberal government, which has received generous financial support from the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C, insists that the hunt, which kills about 300 bears a year, is sustainable as there are more than 15,000 grizzly bears in the province.

But that number is based on models, not a count of bears, and is questioned by some scientists who believe numbers are much lower. A recent study, analyzing 35 years of grizzly mortality data, also found kill limits are regularly exceeded.

Shortly before the 2001 election, the NDP put a moratorium on grizzly trophy hunting  — which was immediately scrapped by the incoming BC Liberal government — but, so far, New Democrats have not committed to stopping the hunt and environment critic George Heyman said caucus discussions are continuing.

However, among the general public there is little ambivalence, with polls showing more than 90 per cent of British Columbians oppose the hunt. In addition, studies in the Great Bear Rainforest show bear viewing generates 12 times the revenue of bear-hunting.

“I don’t understand why this government is so determined to keep on with the hunt,” said Valerie Murray, a founder of Justice for B.C. Grizzlies, speaking at Tuesday’s launch.

The hunt is irresponsible and short-sighted, said group founder Barbara Murray, who pointed out that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be visiting the Great Bear Rainforest for the environmental values — which do not fit comfortably with the violence of the trophy hunt.

“We need to (stop) this for our own humanity and self-respect,” she said.

Other newly-formed groups opposing the hunt include the non-profit Grizzly Bear Foundation, initiated by philanthropist and developer Michael Audain, who kickstarted the effort with a $500,000 grant from the Audain Foundation.

The Foundation will hold public meetings around B.C. from Sept. 27 to Oct. 20 and will hand a report to the provincial government by next February.

“The purpose will be to promote the welfare of grizzly bears of B.C. through education, research and conservation activities,” Audain said at the group’s launch.

“How can we share the province in a harmonious way that facilitates a healthy bear population as well as in a manner that does not provide problems for the human population.”

The government will also be receiving a report this spring from Auditor General Carol Bellringer, who has been asked to look into whether the province is properly managing bear populations.

The Grizzly Bear Foundation will look at threats such as habitat loss, climate change, urbanization and food supply as well as hunting. Rammell said looking at a range of threats is good, but halting the hunt will produce immediate results.

“Stop the hunt and it puts 300 extra bears in the woods every year. Populations can’t handle the hunt,” he said.

LUSH Fresh Handmade Cosmetics will also be lending its clout to the campaign this fall.

“We have 240 stores in North America and all those stores will be talking about trophy hunting,” said Carleen Pickard, LUSH ethical campaigns specialist, in an interview.

“We are joining the other organizations to talk about this cruel and outdated trophy hunt. . . .We want people coming into our stores to put pressure on their elected individuals,” she said.

The LUSH campaign is likely to include a documentary with internationally renowned bear expert Charlie Russell, who has spent his life studying and living with grizzly bears in Canada, Alaska and Russia.

Speaking at the launch of Justice for B.C. Grizzlies, Russell said human attitudes towards bears have to change.

Bears should not be portrayed as aggressive killers, but as intelligent animals who want to get along with humans if they are not threatened, he said, pointing out that, during one of his studies, female bears would bring their cubs to him for babysitting.

“What I saw was a peace-loving animal that wanted to get along with us, but we don’t allow it,” he said in an interview.

British Columbians need to ask themselves how civilized they are, Russell said.

“We are supposed to be the top species in world and we are not civilized if we kill for just sport,” he said.

Image: Nathan Rupert via Flickr

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Hey there keener,
Thanks for being an avid reader of our in-depth journalism, which is read by millions and made possible thanks to more than 4,200 readers just like you.

The Narwhal's growing team is hitting the ground running in 2022 to tell stories about the natural world that go beyond doom-and-gloom headlines — and we need your support.

Our model of independent, non-profit journalism means we can pour resources into doing the kind of environmental reporting you won’t find anywhere else in Canada, from investigations that hold elected officials accountable to deep dives showcasing the real people enacting real climate solutions.

There’s no advertising or paywall on our website (we believe our stories should be free for all to read), which means we count on our readers to give whatever they can afford each month to keep The Narwhal’s lights on.

The amazing thing? Our faith is being rewarded. We hired seven new staff over the past year and won a boatload of awards for our features, our photography and our investigative reporting.

With your help, we’ll be able to do so much more in 2022. If you believe in the power of independent journalism, join our pod by becoming a Narwhal today. (P.S. Did you know we’re able to issue charitable tax receipts?)

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