March 10, 2009
The Canadian Grizzly Bear Hunt
Few animals personify the beauty and grandeur of the Canadian wilderness as well as the grizzly bear. Their strength and beauty, their devotion to their young and their intelligent curiosity enrich our lives and inspire us. Sadly, in Canada, there are fewer than 25,000 adult grizzly bears left in the wild. Populations of this species have been lost in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba already due to unrestricted hunting and agricultural practices in the pioneer era. BC grizzlies are now classified as “Special Concern” (or vulnerable) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Despite this status and the ever increasing degradation and loss of their habitat, Canadian grizzlies continue to face the very real, completely unnecessary and terribly cruel threat of hunting.
Leading cause of death for grizzlies: humans
Most grizzlies die as a result of human activities such as hunting, poaching, accidental killing or nuisance/self-defense killing. Grizzly populations in most areas of Canada are hunted. Licensed hunters kill more than 450 grizzly bears each year, accounting for about 84 percent of documented human-caused mortality. About eight percent of the grizzly bear’s range in Canada is classified as “protected”. But even in some of these “protected” areas, hunting and activities that may degrade their habitat are permitted. While all provinces and territories have restrictions on hunting (closed seasons, limited-entry permits, harvest quotas, banning of bait, banning trade in bear parts and protection for females and cubs) the fact remains that every province and territory the grizzly bears inhabit allows hunting by First Nation, resident and in some cases non-resident hunters.
A cruel death
Wildlife hunts occur in an uncontrolled environment. Animals are targeted from great distances and these animals are moving. The accuracy of the hunter is further affected by environmental conditions. Under these circumstances, humane killing is often impossible. For example, bow hunting (a common method used to hunt grizzlies) injures more animals than it kills. Dozens of scientific studies show that bow hunting yields more than a 50 percent wounding rate. For every animal killed and retrieved by hunters, at least one animal is left wounded to suffer an agonizing death—through either blood loss or infection by parasites and diseases.
A vulnerable species
Female grizzlies give birth to young every two to four years, many of whom die before reaching the breeding age of 6-7 years, making grizzly bears the slowest reproducing land mammal in North America. This means they are slow to recover from population depletion and are very vulnerable to over hunting. According to COSEWIC, grizzly bears are extremely difficult to manage due to this low reproductive potential, their long life-span, and the difficulty inherent in monitoring their populations. They advocate a high degree of caution in the management of grizzly bears.