Imagine waking up after a long deep sleep. Groggy, you stagger out of bed, yawning, just putting one foot in front of the other. Coffee? Matte? Breakfast? A bit of greenery? Bring it on. And then a sound. You turn around and suddenly, you’re looking down the barrel of a gun. What the…?
If you’re one of 270 Grizzlies in the Kootenays that’s what you might be waking up to as of April 1. No joke. Almost 1700 authorizations to hunt Grizzly were available in BC for this spring’s trophy hunt.
What is trophy hunting and how does it differ from other kinds of hunting? Most Kootenay hunters hunt for meat. Whether they give chase to the ubiquitous white-tailed deer or black bear or the more sought after elk or moose, all of the hunters I know are looking to pack their freezers to feed their families over the winter. Even if they make a sport of it, ethical hunters learn about the animal they’re pursuing and honour its life by giving fair chase, by trying to make a clean kill and by using as much of the body as possible. If they decide to stick the animal’s head on their den wall, it might be in bad taste, but little has gone to waste.
Trophy hunting, though very similar on the surface, is a different kettle of fish. The difference lies in intent. Hunting an inedible animal so that you can stick the biggest decapitation possible on your wall while leaving the carcass to rot in the woods is about puffing out your chest. In plain language, it is disrespectful of life and the web of life. This rooster strutting comes with a hefty price tag for non-resident hunters – over $1000. And the BC Liberals through MLA Bill Bennett have, in a classic conflict of interest situation, increased the percentage of licences given to non-resident hunters to boost their revenues and those of guide outfitters.
What would it be like to honour Grizzlies the way many First Nations cultures do, including the local Sinixt people and the Ktunaxa, as an animal people who have close relations with humans? The hunting a bear was never taken lightly by First Peoples. In independent polls, 75% of the BC public also oppose the Grizzly Trophy Hunt.
Yet, after a 13 year pause, the BC Liberals re-instituted the Grizzly Trophy Hunt last year. This, in spite of the fact that Grizzlies are extirpated from most of their historic North American range. This, in spite of the fact that conservation organizations are trying to re-populate former Grizzly habitat at great effort and cost just south of the border. Even in Canada, Grizzly territory is at risk from loss of habitat, genetic isolation, incursion of ski resorts and other issues. And habitats without large predators are at risk of further ecological imbalances and disturbances.
I recently heard a hunter say “if ‘we’ let ‘them’ stop the Grizzly hunt, what will be next? Black bears? Then elk, then…?” The reality is that during the ban on Grizzly hunting, no other species were removed from the hunting pool except by reason of their scarcity. People who care about the wilderness, be they local hunters, the general public or environmentalists, can and do make common cause to protect our regional ecosystems. In terms of valuing and protecting our homeplace, we are all ‘we’.
The Jumbo Wild! campaign is an excellent example of that. Most of the hunters I met in the central Purcells over the past few years have understood and upheld the need to preserve both animals and habitats. So while we work to keep Jumbo Wild for the bears (among others), 33 Grizzlies in the Jumbo area could be gunned down during the next two months. (Management Units A-19, A-26 and A-27)
So, speak out to end the Grizzly Trophy hunt. And spread the word, BC stands for Bear Country.
Bird Creek, BC