Big game outfitters in the Yukon are disappointed with a move to ban trophy hunting of grizzly bears in British Columbia and hope a similar ban is not adopted in the territory.
"It will probably put some pressure on the Yukon to start limiting the grizzly hunt," said Neil Cosco, an outfitter who guides clients north of Teslin.
B.C.'s Natural Resources Minister Doug Donaldson said the ban, which comes into effect at the end of November, is not about numbers but rather reflects changing social norms.
About 250 grizzlies are killed annually by hunters in B.C., a number Donaldson said is "sustainable" for the population estimated at 15,000 bears, but he said public opinion on the practice has turned.
'Unfortunate political move'
Cosco calls it an unfortunate political move.
"Grizzly bears... become a political topic, so people look at grizzly bears in isolation where it should be part of holistic game management, where if you're managing the prey species you need to manage the predators," he said.
Outfitter Don Lind, who guides in central Yukon, also questions the B.C. ban.
"I don't see how a new government could get in there and assess the situation and make a decision that rapidly, other than it's a political decision."
According to the Yukon Outfitters Association, about 80 grizzly bears are hunted annually in the Yukon, and although it's one of the more popular species for visiting hunters, it comes after Dall sheep and moose.
Yukon NDP leader Liz Hanson hopes the ban in B.C. on trophy hunting grizzly bears will lead the territorial government to take a closer look at grizzly bear management.
"My initial reaction is, what are we going to do in the Yukon?" Hanson said.
"The issue of how we treat our grizzly bear population is not something that's new here and my concern was — when I saw this ban in British Columbia — that there would be increased pressure on big game outfitting by the big game outfitting industry in the Yukon."
"We don't even know in the Yukon for sure how many grizzlies there are. If you look at the government's website they talk about maybe six or seven thousand. They do say that there are some concerns," she said.
Hanson wants to see the government step up research and make informed decisions about the bear population.
"I would hope that they would now use this as a spur to work with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board to get the data, and take action if necessary. And, if that means that there is ultimately a ban, then maybe that's where we have to go," she said.
Yukon Environment Minister Pauline Frost was unavailable for comment Tuesday.
But the department noted in a statement that it's already working on a plan "related to grizzly bear conservation and species management."
It says that plan will provide "direction for addressing the range of values and issues related to conservation and management, in this case for grizzly bears, across Yukon."