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 with Rob Miskosky

Reintroducing a Controversial Hunt

A recent article in the National Observer titled, “BC mulls return of grizzly hunting in controversial report” suggests that BC is considering a plan to reinstate their grizzly bear hunt seven years after it was shut down because of a weak political backbone in that province.

The report, a first draft of the province’s Grizzly Bear Stewardship Framework (GBSF), offers that the ban was not made for conservation purposes, which is well known and even admitted to by the BC government.

With an estimated population of 15,000 grizzly bears, BC has a healthy population, enough to easily warrant a limited hunt, as suggested by the British Columbia Wildlife Federation (BCWF). According to the BCWF, “BCWF is also advocating for the return of a science-based grizzly hunt to help control increasing grizzly bear populations within the province. BCWF alleges that the decision to close the grizzly hunt contradicts the Vision, Principles & Goals of Together for Wildlife, which is a new Provincial Wildlife Management Strategy and was ‘made under social values, instead of science and evidence-based management’.”

According to the GBSF report, “There are also Indigenous communities that have an economic interest in guide outfitting, and grizzly bear hunting. For some of these communities, the closure of the grizzly bear hunt resulted in negative economic impacts, for others the closure of the hunt had positive economic impacts (e.g., coastal areas where bear viewing occurs). Some nations have expressed interest in reinstating a licensed hunt to provide a source of local income.”

A public review of the BC GBSF report opened in mid-June and closes August 18. Opponents of the grizzly bear hunt are now taking action to fight against the report, mainly asking for a time extension, which I would offer is to rally the troops against the possibility of the hunt being reinstated.

The question of whether to reinstate the grizzly bear hunt in British Columbia (and Alberta) is a complex and controversial issue that requires careful consideration. Advocates for a reinstatement of the hunt in both provinces argue that a regulated hunt will help manage grizzly bear populations, reduce human-wildlife conflicts, and provide economic benefits. However, opponents emphasize the importance of conservation and ethical concerns surrounding the hunt.

Proponents of reinstating the grizzly bear hunt argue that it is a valuable tool for managing populations, as unmanaged populations can lead to increased competition for resources, higher instances of human-wildlife conflicts, and a potential decline in other species’ due to predation. A controlled hunt could help maintain population levels in harmony with the ecosystem’s carrying capacity.

Human-wildlife conflicts pose a significant challenge in areas where grizzly bears and human activities overlap. According to the report, “Crop [and livestock] depredation incidents are currently increasing, and will likely continue to increase in the future, as bears reclaim or are re-introduced into unoccupied [no bears] areas.” In Alberta, this is especially true in the southwestern portion of the province where ranching and bears often collide. Advocates suggest that a regulated hunt could help deter bears from venturing too close to populated areas by reinstating their natural fear of humans. In this way, the hunt might indirectly contribute to reducing conflicts and promote coexistence between humans and bears.

Reintroducing a limited hunt will also have economic benefits to many communities. A limited hunt would provide funding for research, habitat restoration, and education initiatives.

Critics of a hunt argue that grizzly bears play a vital role in maintaining ecosystem balance by controlling populations of prey species, such as elk and deer.

However, the strongest argument against reinstating the grizzly bear hunt revolves around conservation and ethics. Critics contend that grizzly bear hunting goes against the principles of ethical wildlife management and conservation. They advocate for alternative approaches to hunting, such as investing in non-lethal methods to mitigate human-bear conflicts.

Whether to reinstate the grizzly bear hunt in Alberta and British Columbia is a contentious issue that requires much consideration. While proponents argue that a regulated hunt will help manage bear populations and reduce conflicts, opponents emphasize the importance of preserving these iconic bears for their intrinsic value and ecological role.

Just who is correct? As grizzly bear populations continue to expand, we might soon find out.

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