NHLer’s BC grizzly kill offside?

Raincoast Conservation Foundation has asked the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, the entity responsible for managing the trophy hunting of bears in the province, to investigate the killing of a grizzly on the central coast by National Hockey League player Clayton Stoner.

Raincoast Conservation Foundation has asked the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, the entity responsible for managing the trophy hunting of bears in the province, to investigate the killing of a grizzly on the central coast by National Hockey League player Clayton Stoner. As a result, the BC Conservation Officer Service is investigating Stoner’s trophy killing of the grizzly bear in question.

There is widespread concern regarding the circumstances surrounding this particular hunt, including uncertainty as to whether Stoner is technically a B.C. resident. If he is not, then he shouldn’t have been issued a B.C. Resident Hunter Number card nor should he have been allowed to enter the Limited Entry Hunt (LEH) lottery to kill a grizzly.

As the ministry website states, “Participation in the LEH draw is available to any resident of B.C. who legally possesses a B.C. Resident Hunter Number.” To obtain a B.C. Resident Hunter Number and Resident Hunter Number card an individual must provide evidence that he is a resident. The legal definition of a B.C. resident is a person who “is a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada, whose only or primary residence is in British Columbia, and has been physically present in British Columbia for the greater portion of each of six calendar months out of the 12 calendar months immediately preceding the date of making an application under this Act or doing another thing relevant to the operation of this Act.”

Stoner plays for the Minnesota Wild, a U.S.-based team in the NHL. As such, he is required to live and work in Minnesota the majority of the year. The NHL regular season runs from October through mid-April. That doesn’t count time spent at training camp prior to the regular season or potential participation in the playoffs. Given the length of the NHL season and the fact Stoner plays for a U.S. based team (and has played for U.S. based teams in the NHL, AHL and WHL since 2002), it would seem implausible that he could have been physically present in B.C. for the time required to qualify as a resident.

The investigation by the province raises several troubling questions. Big picture, this event could very well end up calling into question the integrity of the LEH, as well as the B.C. government’s ability to monitor the hunt and enforce their own regulations.

The Conservation Officer Service office in Bella Coola has been closed and moved to Williams Lake. Bella Coola is the only central coast community accessible by road and is the community nearest to where the grizzly bear was killed. “It’s fortunate that First Nations research technicians were there to observe and record this incident. Stoner’s party, or any hunters conducting potentially illegal activities, would be more likely to encounter aliens from another planet than a Conservation Officer in these remote coastal areas,” said Brian Falconer, guide outfitting coordinator for Raincoast.

In the 2002 Raincoast report “Losing Ground: The decline in fish and wildlife law enforcement capability in B.C. and Alaska,” author and wildlife scientist Dr. Brian Horejsi concluded the following:

“Wildlife populations and biological diversity are endangered by chronic underfunding and marginalization of wildlife conservation-oriented enforcement programs in British Columbia and, to a lesser degree, in Alaska. This period of measurable political disinterest and low and declining priority now approaches 20 years in duration. There is little evidence available to the British Columbia or Alaska public to indicate that current enforcement capabilities are sufficient to provide effective compliance with fish and wildlife regulations, a problem being aggravated by escalating and uncoordinated land use activities. In every capability measure examined, capability today is significantly lower than it has been previously. Enforcement and protection staff are presently unable to effect widespread and long-lasting changes in resource user behavior in either Alaska or B.C. While fish and wildlife protection capability in Alaska has slipped…the evidence indicates that B.C. has now crossed the threshold at which protection of fish and wildlife populations and their habitat by enforcement services has effectively and materially been abandoned.”

We stand with Coastal First Nations in their call to end the trophy hunting of bears in B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest. Coastal grizzly bears, in particular, face numerous threats to their survival, including habitat loss and a declining supply of salmon; the additive pressure from trophy hunting exists throughout much of the Great Bear Rainforest, even in many legislated protected areas. This is more than just a “management” issue. It’s also an ethical issue. Bottom line, killing these magnificent animals for recreation and entertainment is a barbaric and anachronistic practice that should be ended on the coast of British Columbia.

A version of this article was previously published at The Huffington Post on September 30, 2013.

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