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B.C. is considering a plan to reinstate grizzly hunting seven years after public outcry pushed the province to ban the controversial sport.

The recommendation was recently floated in a first draft of the province’s Grizzly Bear Stewardship Framework, a report providing policy recommendations for the future of grizzly conservation. It summarizes existing data and highlights the present and future risks to the species’ population.

Grizzly hunting was banned in 2017 following intense opposition from conservation groups. The new report takes aim at that decision, stating the ban was not made for conservation purposes but instead reflected “many British Columbians’ ethical or moral opposition towards grizzly bear hunting.”

Proponents of grizzly hunting defend it as a valid conservation measure and a critical source of income for small communities. Opponents of the hunt characterize the practice as outdated and cruel, claiming the business of commercial bear viewing is far more lucrative and sustainable. The two sides have been embroiled in conflict for decades, and the debate has a tumultuous history in B.C. politics. In 2001, the NDP government placed a three-year embargo on the practice, but the hunt was reinstated the same year when the BC Liberals took power.

Chris Genovali, executive director of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, was quick to call out the report’s shortcomings. As a longtime advocate for grizzly conservation and an ardent opponent of the hunt, he sees the proposal to reinstate hunting as a consequence of entrenched pressure from hunters and guides disenfranchised by the 2017 ban.

“Our sources indicate that this is being pushed by an entrenched pro-grizzly-killing group of bureaucrats within the civil service that have been there for decades,” Genovali said. “Some of the players may change but the mindset remains the same, which is this fervent belief that killing grizzly bears is the legitimate management tool.”

Reinstating the hunt runs the risk of reigniting the heated debate from years prior, leading Genovali to the conclusion that B.C.’s premier is “not really fully aware of what's going on.” Increased public awareness of the hunt’s re-emergence could place pressure on the cabinet to revise the report, he said.

B.C. has one of the highest concentrations of grizzlies across North America, with an estimated population of 15,000. The province is the ideal environment for the top predator: an abundance of salmon and berries allows grizzlies to prepare for hibernation, and with large portions of B.C. unoccupied, the bears can go about their business in isolation.

Grizzlies play a critical role in the ecosystem. “As a keystone species, they are the top and everything comes down around them,” explained Kathy MacRae of the Commercial Bear Viewing Association. “Bears go out and eat salmon and then drag that salmon up into the forest and the salmon carcasses decompose and bring nutrients to the soil, which brings the ecosystem into abundance.”

Seven years after banning grizzly hunting, a new report from BC is considering reinstating it. Conservatism groups are calling for the government to reconsider, and calling on the public to raise awareness.

The window for public review into the grizzly stewardship report opened in mid-June and closes Aug. 18. Nicholas Scapillati, executive director of the Grizzly Bear Foundation and an opponent of the hunt, says the province hasn’t allotted enough time for adequate review. “They released the public engagement process in the middle of the summer and gave five weeks for people to engage. And that's just ridiculous and a missed opportunity.”

Scapillati said the report has shortcomings but offers potential for the framework to break ground in the field of grizzly conservation. “They've done a great job of engaging First Nations, engaging a bunch of different NGOs and biologists. So they've got a really good foundation for it. It just has some major holes in it.”

Scapilatti’s organization is asking the public to write to the government in an effort to extend the draft deadline. “This can be a world-class document in how we look at wildlife stewardship, in how we work with Indigenous people, and it's so close for the government to get there.

“They need to make these changes and they need to take this opportunity as seriously as the public takes it.”

Updates and corrections

| Corrections policy
August 14, 2023, 03:30 am

This story has been corrected to reflect the accurate number of grizzlies in B.C.

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I can't believe that a return to grizzly bear hunting is even being considered. It is wrong on so many fronts.

Hey everyone!! PLEASE use the link and send in your comments to the provincial government!!

The only way to stop this insanity and greed is to vote Green. So hard to imagine that a NDP government could be as damaging to our environment as the previous robber barons. Everyday exposes another story, happening behind the scenes by lobbyists and industry with promises of a future employment opportunities for favourable decisions as we are so becoming blatantly aware of. Vote Green!