Ending grizzly hunt among recommendations in new report

The Grizzly Bear Foundation wants to see the end of the grizzly hunt in British Columbia. The recommendation is one of 19 made by the charity following a tour of the province with stops at six towns and cities.

The Grizzly Bear Foundation includes 19 recommendations in its report on long-term grizzly survival

Norwegian hunter Espen Lynne poses with a dead grizzly in British Columbia. (Espen Lynne)

The Grizzly Bear Foundation wants to see the grizzly hunt ended in British Columbia. The recommendation is one of 19 made by the charity following a tour of the province with stops in six towns and cities.

The findings of the group's three-person board of inquiry are included in a new 88-page report

"Today, this species has been gradually killed off. Ninety-seven per cent of the territory in the contiguous United States to our south is now devoid of grizzly bears," said Michael Audain, the housing developer and art philanthropist who chairs the Grizzly Bear Foundation.

"So many British Columbians seem to care about the bear. They seem proud of grizzly bears and they seem to have a great interest in bears. At the same time, we've also recognized that the bear is facing certain threats," said Audain, who added the greatest threat to grizzlies is human-caused habitat loss.

Grizzly Bear Foundation chair Michael Audain discusses the findings of the board of inquiry report on grizzly bears at his housing development company headquarters in Vancouver on Tuesday. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"The other major threat is that with climate change, there's a loss of their food sources. The bears, to a tremendous degree, depend on the salmon runs."

New report

The report is based on consultations carried out by Audain and fellow board of inquiry members Stuart McLaughlin and Suzanne Veit.

Beginning in September, the board travelled to Cranbrook, Prince George, Fort Nelson, Prince Rupert, Vancouver and Victoria, holding public hearings in each place.

The 19 recommendations are directed at all levels of government, and many are aimed at the Grizzly Bear Foundation itself.

Included in the suggestions:

  • Increase grizzly education in elementary schools.
  • Develop projects to demonstrate the use of electric fences and bear spray in some areas.
  • Continue grizzly research.
  • Consider grizzly bears in the implementation of the federal wild salmon policy.
  • Terminate all grizzly hunting in B.C.
  • Reduce bear attractant in public spaces and parks.
A grizzly bear walks along a railway track in this photo from Parks Canada, which has spent years studying how to reduce collisions between trains and wildlife. (Dan Rafla/Parks Canada)

Provincial government response

Forests Minister Steve Thomson provided an emailed response to the group's report, primarily focusing on the call to end the trophy hunt.

"The Grizzly Bear Foundation has provided a valuable summary of the different viewpoints with regard to grizzly bears. I'm glad to see the report recognizes there are many factors that affect grizzly bear populations, including habitat and other human interactions," Thompson said.

"We will review the report in detail and continue discussions with First Nations and key stakeholders, such as bear viewing, tourism, hunting groups and the Grizzly Bear Foundation."

According to a report prepared for the B.C. government, there are an estimated 15,000 grizzly bears in the province. (The Canadian Press)

Thompson pointed to a study carried out for the B.C. government last spring in reference to the grizzly hunt which states that "adequate safeguards have been established to ensure, with a high degree of confidence, the sustainability of this harvest."

Audain, using B.C. government numbers, acknowledged that the grizzly populations in B.C. and Alaska are now stable. But he said that with the significant threat to the animals from human activity, the hunt should not be allowed to continue, and he doesn't believe that the majority of British Columbians support the trophy hunt.

"The biggest threat to the grizzly bear, if you want to know, is the human being," said Audain.

"Eighty per cent of bears don't die naturally. They die in British Columbia as a product of human interaction. Either they're shot or they're subject to highway or train accidents, so we are the biggest threat to the grizzly bears."

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Rafferty Baker

Rafferty Baker is CBC Vancouver's mobile journalist. Follow him @raffertybaker