Grizzly Bear Hunting in British Columbia. By Karen Renee Saginaw.

I’ve been rather uninspired about writing lately. Not because there is any lack of important topics to discuss, but because all too often it seems nobody really gives a rip or, worse yet, people tell me it’s a waste of time. But, the coals of concern never truly grow cold in my mind and soul, and all it takes is the sharp stick of ridiculousness to stir them back up into a burning flame. What did it this time?

The announcement that as of November 30, there will be no more trophy hunting of Grizzly Bears in British Columbia, Canada.

Hunting will still be permitted to some extent, but it will only be considered for meat purposes, meaning the hides, skulls, and paws of all hunted bears will have to be turned over to the government upon harvest.

Before you throw your hands up in disgust at the term “trophy hunting”, please keep in mind that a true trophy Grizzly Bear is a mature, even better yet past-prime male, so this type of hunt is a very selective hunt. Although Grizzly Bears are not traditionally hunted primarily for meat, what would a meat bear be?

Any bear above the legal harvest age. Stop a moment and think about that. As a biologist who is also very passionate about hunting, I would, of course, respect such a change in hunting regulations if it had any scientific or realistic basis.

However, even the Natural Resources Minister for the province – Doug Donaldson, readily states that it is not a matter of numbers at all. Instead it is purely because society no longer approves of it. I don’t know which “society” he is referring to, because I know that is a horribly inaccurate and detrimental generalization.

I hate to think that our world has come to this. That reason and fact can be completely overridden simply because some people don’t like something. And if that is what it has come to, then I think those who disapprove had better work hard on finding solutions to the potential problems they may create – and they should also hang their heads in shame for thinking they are capable of dictating what others should and should not do. Whatever happened to the principle of – “if I don’t like it, I simply won’t participate in it”????

I hope you read on here for a few moments, whether you are pro-, anti- or non-hunting, and that you just take a few moments to think about what I am presenting here. And I hope your take away message might be — well, why on earth does it have to be banned? Why can’t hunting of grizzlies coexist with photo safaris? Because I assure you it can. And THAT would be the best for EVERYONE involved, especially the grizzlies themselves.

So here are a few facts to ponder. But I want to preface them by saying that I strongly feel that facts and economics are not the only reasons to support something. I think hunting is a culture that is delightfully full of many emotions, experiences, appreciations, and intangible contributions that deserve much respect and considerations as well. Although the kill is a part of hunting, it is not the only part, by any means.

But here are a few tangibles to consider anyway.

It is estimated that there are about 25,000 Grizzly Bears in Canada, with the province of British Columbia (BC) being home to around 15,000 of those bears. Grizzlies occupy 89% of their historical range in BC, and population numbers are considered stable throughout most of Canada. The BC Grizzly Bear hunt is one of the most tightly controlled hunts on the planet, with 35% of the province already completely closed to hunting whilst the rest is divided into 56 Grizzly Bear Population Units, based on habitat and natural boundaries.

Based on data collected from hunter harvested bears and scientific studies funded primarily by hunters’ dollars, these population units are closely monitored and any necessary adjustments to hunter harvest rates are made as needed. If any populations fall below 100 bears total, no kills are allowed until bear numbers increase again. No bears under 2 years old or any bears accompanying such age class bears are allowed to be killed.

Harvest rates are highly regulated and conservative, with only about 250-300 bears being killed each year, which equates to a very sustainable, only 2% rate of harvest.

For a little economic perspective, the guide and outfitting industry contributes $116 million each year to BC’s economy and provides for about 2000 jobs in primarily rural communities.

Guided clients spend more per day per capita than any other type of visitor to the province, and the hunting industry as a whole contributes $350 million to BC’s economy.

Since 1981, hunters have contributed millions of dollars to the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, through surcharges on licenses, tags and royalties. These monies have provided funding for research on both hunted and non-hunted species, including grizzlies.

Even the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s oldest and largest conservation organization, states that hunting plays a positive role in conservation because “the social and economic benefits derived from such use provides incentives for people to conserve them”.

Do grizzlies only die at the hands of hunters? Of course not. In addition to “natural” mortalities such as disease, injury, males killing cubs, etc., a major cause of grizzly mortality is from conflicts with humans. The Conservation Officer Service of BC regularly handles hundreds of such calls regarding conflicts each year.

The only figures I could find on actual numbers were from back in 2013-2014, but for that year it was 425! Each year, about 10 to 30 bears are killed by Conservation Officer’s responding to these conflicts, with a similar number being killed by landowners themselves in self-defense or to protect livestock.

The deaths of these bears contribute absolutely nothing to either the further appreciation of bears or to BC’s economy. On the contrary, they actually cost the Natural Resources Department money and contribute to fear and loathing of bears. And yet who pays for such services? Primarily, once again, likely hunter’s dollars since that’s who usually funds wildlife law enforcement programs.

So, if you read this far, thank you! I appreciate your interest and I do truly hope you think about all of this and proactively address any such issues that you feel are important in the future.

I think the bottom line I would like you to think about is if you decide to vigorously hop on a bandwagon against a topic, please take a realistic look at why you feel that way. Just because you don’t like it is a piss poor reason, if that’s you’re only reason, in my opinion.

Think deeply about what the consequences of your actions may be, and put equal amount of time into coming up with solutions to the potential problems your changes may create. Nowadays too many people want to take, take, take, completely forgetting that give and take almost always is a far better solution.

I can readily think of a few changes that should occur because of this change in policy, and I guarantee you none of them would be popular with the chest thumpers who thought this was such a grand idea.

For starters, any photo safaris and any public areas where you might view or photograph grizzlies would now have an appropriate surcharge per person to cover lost hunter revenues that previously funded grizzly research and management. And all those hides, skulls and paws that will be confiscated?

Well, they’d be available for purchase to any educational group who wanted them – but for the appropriate trophy fee, with money going back into not only grizzly programs, but also a portion would be distributed to the guides and outfitters.

How about those “problem” bears? You want to file a complaint? Excellent! There is now a monetary charge for that and should the bear need to be killed you now need to pay for it and utilize the meat. I fear far too many uninformed keyboard warriors push these issues nowadays simply because what are their own personal consequences? Absolutely nothing. They feel completely comfortable taking away things that other people hold dear, just so long as it doesn’t cost them a damn thing.

So, on a final note. If a wildlife issue concerns you, do the wildlife of the world a huge favor and rely more heavily on reality than the slanted version of it that the media and self-serving interest groups push so very effectively.

Reading one textbook on wildlife management and research could do your brain better than reading thousands of pages of the absolute crap that so many of these groups and the media mislead you with.

And if you wish to dictate that hunters hunt for meat only, then I sure hope you inform yourself very well about all of your own dietary choices (vegetarians and vegans included because your diets have certainly contributed heavily to the destruction of much wildlife habitat globally) and clean up your plates, both the ones on your table and the proverbial plates in your own heart and soul.