The full ban comes four years after the Coastal First Nations banned the hunting of grizzlies for sport in the 12,000-square-mile Great Bear Rainforest, which occupies a significant portion of British Columbia’s coastline. The B.C. government extended this ban to the whole of the province in August 2017, which meant non-First Nations hunters were only allowed to hunt grizzlies if they intended to harvest them for food; however, this iteration of the ban lasted just four months before the full ban was put in place.
An estimated 250 grizzly bears have been killed each year in British Columbia since trophy hunting was reinstated by the then Liberal government when they came to power in 2001, a move which, says Joe Foy of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, has “wiped out [grizzlies] in the centre of the province.” Although wildlife activists and conservationists like Foy have welcomed news of the ban, hunters and guide outfitters have been less enthused.
Regardless of the economic impact, the ethical considerations of trophy hunting cannot be ignored. This issue was brought up in a recent release from the Born Free Foundation to coincide with the upcoming airing of Trophy, a documentary which examines whether big game hunting can be justified by the contributions it makes to conservation efforts. Although the grizzly bear is listed as ‘Least Concern’ by the IUCN, making it considerably better off than endangered animals like lions and rhinos, the ethical issue still stands. Even if trophy hunting does contribute to conservation, why must the killing of animals for “sport” be a socially acceptable activity that humans wish to engage in?
The answers to these questions are hard to grasp, but the implementation of B.C.’s ban on grizzly bear hunting makes the answers – for now at least, and only in regard to grizzlies – academic. Fewer grizzlies being killed is, without a doubt, a good thing for grizzlies. If personal beliefs and individuals’ conceptions of their connection to the animals that we share our planet with are to change, perhaps a new law – even one that pleases part of the population and disenfranchises others – is the first step towards this.
This ban may be seen by some as heavy-handed, and its status as headline news may detract from the bigger picture, i.e. the threat of habitat loss and human encroachment to B.C.’s grizzly bears. But what the ban will undoubtedly bring is more bears to British Columbia, and more bears means a healthier ecosystem. Chris Servheen, Adjunct Research Associate Professor of Wildlife Conservation at the University of Montana, believes that – at least in a conservation context – grizzly bears are a keystone species: “If you manage for this species, it carries others with it. If you protect grizzlies, you protect other animals.” This is the biggest success of the B.C. ban. It benefits not only grizzly bears, but British Columbia’s flora and fauna as a whole, and shows that people truly care about the natural world that they are themselves a part of.
The images in this article were taken as stated at British Columbia’s T’a Ish Adventures Lodge and Bear Cave Mountain Camp in the Yukon. Wildlife photographer and expert guide Phil Timpany leads our Ice Grizzlies safari. Click below to talk to one of our Destination Specialists and start planning your own grizzly bear safari.
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