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 with Rob Miskosky

Influenced Decisions

Public pressure put on a politician often puts that politician in an undesirable position. When this happens, sometimes decisions are made despite a known unwanted outcome.

As an example, when Alberta stopped culling deer along the Alberta/Saskatchewan border because of public outcry, it was well known then that the outcome would be the continued spread of chronic wasting disease further into Alberta. Yet, despite this being known, politicians shut down the cull and we now find ourselves where we are today where chronic wasting disease is concerned.

Should Bear 148 have been euthanized?
- photo Alex P. Taylor/Parks Canada
A more recent example would be the recent announcement of the end of the grizzly bear trophy hunt in British Columbia, after this season.

Annually, hunters kill 250 grizzly bears in BC. Considering BC has an estimated population of 15,000 grizzly bears, the hunt was more than sustainable, according to BC Natural Resources Minister Doug Donaldson. However, Donaldson said during a CBC interview that “It’s not a matter of numbers, it’s a matter of society has come to the point in BC where they are no longer in favour of the grizzly bear trophy hunt.”

Thus, another decision being made based on public pressure and not on the sustainability of the grizzly bear hunt in that province.

Another recent decision made in Alberta was that of the infamous Bear 148. The decision to relocate Bear 148 from her home grounds around Canmore to a remote location in northwestern Alberta, near Kakwa Wildland Provincial Park, was made because more than 24,000 people signed a petition calling for the saving of the bear. Thus, public pressure played a part in the decision that the bear wouldn’t be euthanized when perhaps it should have been—Bear 148 was relocated because of a series of close encounters with people hiking and cycling in Canmore and sooner or later there was likely to have been a human fatality.

While nobody likes to see a grizzly bear euthanized, especially a healthy female with reproductive potential, wildlife managers are often faced with difficult decisions, including whether or not an animal should live or die. I contend that politicians under public pressure should not influence those decisions. Our wildlife managers know well what needs to be done, when, and how to do it. I believe that Bear 148 would have been euthanized had it not been for public/political influence. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am.

The cost alone of relocating Bear 148 would have been extremely high, never mind the fact that relocated bears often die. Research shows that relocated bears travel more and expend more calories doing so, which affects their fat reserves as they head into hibernation. As well, a relocated bear might not know exactly where to find the food it needs to survive in its new location. And, a relocated bear can be killed by another bear already living in that location that is intolerable of a competitor.

Bear 148 is now on her last chance and is wearing a radio collar so our wildlife managers can monitor her location. If she moves from her current location and ends up in Grande Cache or Fort St. John, she will be euthanized. Considering Bear 148 has been relocated before only to return to her previous location, there is a good chance she will end up where she’s not wanted.

There are many groups active in Canada that know well how to use the media and how to communicate to the public how to persuade politicians. This can lead to influenced decisions that aren’t always correct.

It’s time we allow those that should be making wildlife decisions make those decisions; after all, who really knows better? ■

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