What follows is a summary of grizzly bear trophy hunting in B.C., where each of the political parties stand on the issue, followed by our latest news articles.
Issue Overview: Grizzly Trophy Hunting in B.C.
According to a 2017 report by the David Suzuki Foundation [PDF], despite grizzly bears being one of the most vulnerable large animals on the North American continent, humans have killed 13,804 grizzlies in British Columbia since reporting began in 1975. B.C.’s annual trophy hunt is responsible for 87 per cent of human-caused grizzly bear deaths each year.
The information contained in the report was compiled from B.C. government records called the Compulsory Inspection Database, which is derived from mandatory submissions and inspections by the B.C. government any time a hunter kills a grizzly bear.
Hunting and killing a grizzly bear is considered in the category of “trophy hunting” because there is no expectation that the hunter will harvest the meat for consumption.
The grizzly bear, along with other “trophy” species, is included on a list of animals that are exempt from harvesting regulations. In other words, there is no expectation for a hunter to process a grizzly bear for the meat once they have killed it, unlike other animals like deer and waterfowl.
A public opinion poll conducted in March 2017 on behalf of the Commercial Bear Viewing Association, found that 74 per cent of residents in rural, northern regions of British Columbia were opposed to the annual grizzly bear trophy hunt. A public opinion poll conducted by Insights West in February 2017 found strong opposition to trophy hunting across Canada (80 per cent), including 90 per cent of British Columbians.
As it stands right now, in the province of B.C., a non-resident of the province is allowed to apply for a permit to shoot and kill a grizzly bear in the province. However, there is only a limited number of such permits approved per year based on conservation numbers, and any non-resident hunter must be accompanied by an authorized guide-outfitter when they hunt and kill the grizzly bear.
Foreign hunters account for about 30 per cent of all trophy kills in a given year and they can pay upwards of $30,000 for the proper permits and the assistance of a guide outfitter.
The B.C. Liberal party and Premier Christy Clark support the annual grizzly trophy hunt because it employs guides and outfitters, as well as brings tourism dollars into the province.
On the other hand, a 2012 report [PDF] by Stanford University in conjunction with the Center for Responsible Travel found that bear viewing groups in the Great Bear Rainforest generated “more than 12 times more in visitor spending than bear hunting.”
Grizzly bear populations in B.C. are disputed, with estimates ranging from as low as 6,000 by independent biologists to as high as 15,000 by the provincial government.
Provincial Party Stances on the Annual Grizzly Bear Trophy Hunt
The B.C. Liberals and the grizzly bear trophy hunt
As stated above, the governing B.C. Liberal party led by Premier Christy Clark continues to support the annual grizzly bear trophy hunt. In September 2015, Premier Clark told reporters that, “[w]e have a record number of grizzly bears in the province, a huge and growing population, and the hunt is scientifically managed.”
In June 2016, the B.C. Liberal government updated the regulations for trophy hunting in B.C., but continued to support the annual grizzly hunt.
The B.C. Liberals have come under fire after it was revealed that one of their candidates, Darren Deluca, auctioned off a hunting permit to shoot a black bear on Vancouver Island to raise money for a pro-trophy hunting lobby group called “Safari Club International.” Deluca is a lifetime member of Safari Club International according to media reports.
The BC Liberals have received nearly $60,000 in donations from guide outfitter associations since 2005.
In 2017 Safari Club International put its name behind a $60,000 fundraising effort for the Guide Outfitters Association of BC. In a post on Facebook, the Canadian chapter for Safari Club International wrote: “NDP have vowed to end the Grizzly hunt in BC if elected. SCI chapters from CANADA and the USA banded together donating $60000.00.”
The B.C. NDP and the grizzly bear trophy hunt
The official opposition NDP led by John Horgan have stated on numerous occasions that they oppose the grizzly bear trophy hunt in BC.
In November 2016, John Horgan restated the party’s commitment to end the grizzly hunt, telling media that:
“More than 90 per cent of B.C. residents — including Coastal First Nations — oppose this kind of cruelty. These majestic animals deserve our full protection, especially since they are already struggling to survive habitat disruption and loss.”
The NDP propose that the grizzly bear hunting only be allowed if the hunter plans to harvest the meat. This stance has been met with criticism by environmental groups because it would create a loophole that would allow the hunt to continue. Commenting on the NDP’s proposal, Ian McAllister, the executive director of Pacific Wild, told media that:
“We think this is just a loophole to continue the trophy hunt under the guise of food hunting.”
The B.C. Green Party and the grizzly bear trophy hunt
Prior to Horgan and the NDP proposing that grizzlies can only be hunted if the meat is harvested, Andrew Weaver, the leader of the BC Green Party tabled a similar regulation in a private member’s bill in 2015.
Weaver said at the time that:
“This bill is about supporting sustainable, respectful hunting practices in B.C. It is about putting B.C. hunters first and taking clear steps towards ending the trophy killing of grizzly bears in our province.”
Environmental groups reacted in a similar fashion to Weaver’s proposal, as they did to the NDP’s. Chris Genovali and Brian Falconer from the Raincoast Conversation Foundation, wrote at the time that:
“Weaver seems not to recognize that the motivation and desire of trophy hunters to bag a grizzly bear will certainly prevail over the relatively minor expense and annoyance of having to ‘pack the meat out.’ “
Image credit: Mick Thompson on Flickr