The B.C. government is ending grizzly bear trophy hunting effective Nov. 30.
“This action is supported by the vast majority of people across our province,” Forests Minister Doug Donaldson announced from Hazelton on Monday. “We believe the action we’re taking goes beyond the commitment to Coastal First Nations made as part of the 2016 Great Bear Rainforest agreements.”
Donaldson said it will take one or more hunting seasons to see how many fewer bears are killed once trophy hunters opt out of a system that allows them to take the meat but not the head, paws or hide of the bear.
The current grizzly season begins this week in northern B.C., and hunting season in general ends at the end of November, so one more open season for grizzlies will be conducted before the ban takes effect.
The ministry estimates that 250 grizzlies are killed by hunters each year, with 80 of those shot by non-resident hunters participating in a lottery draw for grizzly hunting tags.
Revenue to the province from the grizzly bear hunt is estimated at $540,000 a year, with communities in hunting areas also benefiting from the spending of hunters, particularly from the out-of-province hunters.
Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad, the former forests and aboriginal relations minister in the B.C. Liberal government, questioned why Donaldson would announce the policy and the deadline without consulting resident hunters, guide-outfitters or aboriginal communities.
B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver campaigned for years for an end to trophy hunting, but he also objected. Banning possession of the hide, paws and head leaves open the possibility that hunters could shoot a grizzly bear and leave the entire carcass behind, he said.
“It appears to me that the NDP were trying to play to environmental voters in the election campaign without thinking through their policies,” Weaver said.
Premier John Horgan committed to ban the trophy hunting of grizzly bears in November 2016, and made it part of the NDP platform in the spring election.
“The Coastal First Nations banned the grizzly trophy hunt in the Great Bear Rainforest four years ago,” said Doug Neasloss, Chief Councillor of the Kitasoo-Xai’Xais First Nation on the B.C. coast, endorsing the NDP position last year. “A provincial ban is long overdue to stop the needless killing of grizzly bears for sport. Bear claws, hides and teeth are not trophies.”
After the Great Bear Rainforest land use plan was adopted, the former B.C. Liberal government began to retire guide-outfitter licenses in the region as territories were sold to bear-watching companies.
About a third of the province is off limits to grizzly hunting for wildlife management reasons. The rest is subject to a managed hunt for resident and non-resident guided hunters that has been validated by independent experts. Former forests minister Steve Thomson defended it a significant contribution to the provincial economy.
In a report released in October 2016, wildlife biologists from the University of Alberta and the University of Minnesota gave high marks to B.C.’s grizzly bear management, including the grizzly bear hunt lottery that attracts foreign hunters each year.