Bear deaths upset animal activists

18 problem grizzly bears were put down in 2007 and 2008

By John Colebourn,
The Province
May 10, 2009

Animal-rights activists are outraged over the number of grizzly bears being shot in the Bella Coola valley on the central coast.

Records obtained by outdoors photographer Roberta Olenick in a Freedom of Information request from the provincial Ministry of Environment show 18 grizzlies classified as “problem bears” were killed over the course of 2007 and 2008.

“It is distressing the number of grizzly bears being killed,” said Olenick. “Most of these deaths could have been avoided.”

Most of the grizzlies are being destroyed as a direct result of their interaction with humans, because attractants lure the animals into areas where they are not welcome.

Chris Genovali, the executive director of Raincoast Conservation, said government cutbacks have hurt efforts to reduce the number of bears being killed.

“Right now there is a lack of government programs needed to help make these communities bear-safe,” he said. “These areas need bear-proofing.”

He points out one example in which a local resident left a tub of fresh salmon on his deck and then killed a female grizzly and her two cubs when they arrived and tried to eat the fish.

Government records obtained by Olenick show grizzly bear control kills in the Bella Coola valley actually outstripped trophy hunting mortalities during 2007-08.

In 2005, Raincoast Conservation investigated the shooting of grizzly bears by government officials at the landfill site in Bella Coola and found between 15 and 22 grizzlies were killed there in 2004.

Roughly 30 to 60 grizzlies are typically shot every year in B.C. as a threat to people or property.

Others are killed by hunters in surprise encounters. More than 300 more are shot in legal hunts annually.

An estimated 16,000 grizzlies and 80,000 to 100,000 black bears live in B.C.

Trophy hunters killed 317 grizzlies in 2008 — 218 by residents and 99 by non-residents — down from 365 in 2007.

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Coastal wolf with a salmon in its month.
Photo by Dene Rossouw.