January 29, 2013
Protect the Great Bear Rainforest
British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest is one of the last tracts of temperate rainforest on Earth. It is home to thousands of species of plants, birds, and animals—including black bears, grizzlies, and spirit bears.
One might think that here, the bears could live and thrive in peace. But trophy hunters have set their sights on the vulnerable animals, shooting them with rifles and crossbows for entertainment. The unwitting bears are often gunned down near shorelines as they forage for food in the spring and fall, in some cases only days after bear viewing tourist operations have left.
Ending the killing
Now, Coastal First Nations, conservationists and animal protection organizations are joining forces in a historic campaign to protect the bears of the Great Bear Rainforest.
Shockingly, sport hunting is permitted in the majority of BC’s parks and protected areas. In allowing these hunts, the BC government is acting in direct opposition to the views of the vast majority of BC residents. In fact, more than 78 percent of British Columbians oppose the trophy hunting of bears in the Great Bear Rainforest, according to a recent Ipsos-Reid poll conducted by HSI Canada.
It is appalling to think that even grizzly bears—who are protected from hunting in the U.S.—are routinely killed in the Great Bear Rainforest. Notably, of the 430 grizzly bears killed in BC in 2007, 87 percent were killed by trophy hunters. Black bears are also at risk. The BC Coast has one of greatest diversity of black bears subspecies in North America, ranging from the spirit bear (kermodei subspecies) to the Haida black bear, the largest on the BC Coast.
While hunting of white kermodes is already banned, the gene pool is still being affected by killing black bears who carry the recessive gene for the white phase. As well, trophy hunting of bears is impacting the gene pool by the constant selection of the largest, most robust individuals. For a species that only has young once every two to three years, trophy hunting can be devastating.
Tourism as an alternative
The good news is that bears are worth more alive than dead to coastal economies. One bear watching operation in Knight Inlet grossed more than $3 million alone in direct revenue in 2007—more than all trophy hunting revenue combined. The fact is, each bear killed is one less bear that tourists will pay top dollar to photograph, and viewers come back year after year to watch the same bears and their young as they grow up. Thus, only a total ban on trophy hunting will ensure that bear populations can support the high-end viewing operations that contribute valuable income to coastal communities.