Globe and Mail
July 29, 2008
VANCOUVER — A conservation group based on Vancouver Island is urging the British Columbia government to “immediately end all hunting of grizzly bears” in the province, given “uncertainty” about the species’ current population. The Raincoast Conservation Society made the request in a letter sent to Premier Gordon Campbell and Minister of Environment Barry Penner yesterday morning.
“What are we doing allowing these magnificent animals to be shot for recreation?” Raincoast’s executive director, Chris Genovali asked.
Mr. Genovali said a record 430 grizzlies were killed in B.C. last year, 84 per cent of them by trophy hunters.
Sidney-based Raincoast, backed by nearly 70 other ecological organizations representing 15 million members around the world, questioned the Ministry of Environment’s assertions that there are currently 17,000 grizzly bears in the province.
“It’s a population estimate based on a methodology that’s been highly criticized by independent scientists and has not been subjected to any kind of peer review,” Mr. Genovali said.
Shane Simpson, NDP opposition critic for the environment, echoed those sentiments.
“The big problem with this discussion around the grizzly bear is that nobody is confident in the government’s numbers as to how many bears we actually have in B.C.,” Mr. Simpson said. “What we really need to do is determine what the population is in some peer-reviewed way that’s credible.”
Mr. Simpson added that although he recognizes hunting is part of B.C. culture, “I have a problem with the notion that we allow the grizzly to be taken as a trophy, particularly when we can’t with any confidence say whether it’s compromising the future of the bear.”
Mr. Penner disputed that assertion.
“Our methodology has been confirmed by an independent scientific panel that had some of the world’s leading grizzly bear experts on it,” he said.
“If anything, it looks like grizzly bear populations are increasing. That’s certainly the information from conservation officers around the province.”
In February of 2001, the NDP government announced a three-year moratorium on grizzly bear hunting in B.C. When the Liberals came to office just a few months later, that moratorium was lifted.
“Our protests that they had no reason to overturn the moratorium fell on deaf ears,” Mr. Genovali said.
A poll conducted by McAllister Opinion Research for the conservation group Pacific Wild in June of this year found that 73 per cent of British Columbians, including hunters, support a total ban on grizzly trophy hunting.