It’s not a good time to be a grizzly bear in British Columbia. You’re just waking up from a long winter’s nap; you’re anxious to get out there, find a mate, catch salmon and all those things that bears do.
But in less than three weeks, the annual bear hunt begins, and if you’re of the ursine persuasion, your life won’t be worth a plug nickel.
And forget about heading for provincial parks or so-called protected areas. More than 500 grizzlies have met their untimely demise in provincial parks. Legally.
Believe it or not, more than 10,800 B.C. grizzlies have been killed by humans in the last 20 years. Not for anything necessary like food, but for fun.
Apparently, some guys think it’s fun to blow away the world’s most awesome predator from a distance with a high-powered rifle. And Victoria does everything in its power to make it happen. This despite a 2009 Ipsos-Reid poll showing 80 per cent of British Columbians oppose the hunt. Not to mention 100 per cent of the bears.
There is a coalition of two dozen environmental groups opposing the hunt, not only because it is insane, but also because the hunt threatens the tourist industry — at least those tourists who aren’t keen to be caught in the crossfire.
There are 20,000 to 25,000 grizzlies left in Canada, about 16,000 of them in B.C. Grizzlies have one of the lowest reproductive rates of any terrestrial mammal. Which apparently means, according to the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C., that they need to be killed for their own good.
Just in case you think I’m making this up, here’s the first line of the Outfitters’ grizzly press release: “The best way to maintain healthy grizzly bear populations is to allow hunting.”
According to the same release, guide outfitting brings in $120 million annually. Compare that to about $14 billion annual total tourism revenue, so let’s take away the guns and give the boys some nice cameras to play with.
As far as the B.C. Outfitters are concerned, B.C. is just one big shooting gallery, referring to the province as the Serengeti of the north, offering 24 of 29 big game targets. To give you an idea of the guide outfitter mentality: it has a magazine called Mountain Hunter. Its tag line? “Fair chase … no fences.” Get out of my way, I’m huntin’ grizz.
I can’t believe this is happening again this year. But unless we do something, the next sound you hear will be “lock and load.” And it will be the last sound heard by about 350 unlucky grizzlies. April Fool, you silly bear!
– Paul Sullivan is a Vancouver-based journalist and owner of Sullivan Media Consulting;