Grizzly bear hunt has no place in modern society

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      I went "undercover" once with a European television producer to the workshop of a taxidermist-cum-trophy hunter on Vancouver Island. The producer and I had just spent a couple of days watching grizzly bears on British Columbia's central coast. With my baseball cap pulled down low, I entered the taxidermy workshop. I was there to observe a somewhat arcane aspect of the trophy hunting world.

      As the taxidermist opened the door, a chemical smell came wafting outside; it was reminiscent of the embalming fluids used by morticians. The first thing I saw looking past him was a black bear mounted on a platform of river rock. The black bear was on all fours in a contrived stance that suggested it was about to take a step forward. On the bear’s right, near the front of the platform was a mounted river otter. The taxidermist explained it was for a client in Texas.

      The producer appeared a bit taken aback, but she was game and so began directing a steady stream of questions at the taxidermist. While they engaged in the interview, I wandered off to take a look at the two grizzly bears "in progress" on the other side of the room.

      The two bears were positioned side by each, rearing up on their hind legs, replete with the clichéd baring of teeth that is meant to show menace. Upon closer inspection I could still see the bullet holes.

      As I rejoined the living, the taxidermist was relating how he had just bagged his first grizzly on a recent hunting trip to a coastal area located within the Great Bear Rainforest. He spoke of how he had looked the bear in the eyes before killing it. I thought about all the times I had observed large carnivores in the wild, often close enough to see that fire in their eyes, as the father of wildlife ecology Aldo Leopold described it. Zoologist James Karr has characterized it as the fire peculiar to living things.

      We moved into the taxidermist’s showroom, which was full of finished products. It seemed to contain virtually every species that is allowed to be hunted in coastal B.C. As far as I could tell, there was a full compliment of top predators, with the exception of wolverines. There was also a stack of black bear hides that looked a couple of feet high.

      We finally bid the taxidermist farewell and drove to the local airport. The producer and I sat silently in the embarking area and pondered the last 72 hours we had just spent with bears, both alive and dead.

      That the province continues to permit grizzly bears—especially coastal grizzlies, which are often sitting targets—to be shot and killed for sport in our parks and protected areas is not only anachronistic from a wildlife management perspective, but it is ethically lamentable as well.

      The reality is that you can kill coastal bears quickly via trophy hunting or kill them slowly by denying them their life requisites through destruction of their habitat and overexploitation of the salmon on which they depend. Sadly, one can only expect the situation for bears to deteriorate further as industrial activities intensified by climate disruption devastate more forests and salmon stocks.

      Ironically, the grizzly, a species once regarded as a threat to our survival, is turning out to be a test of how likely we are to achieve sustainability of the elements that also sustain us—forests and salmon.

      The Great Bear Almanac by Gary Brown, one of the seminal reference books on grizzly bears, states, “bears are highly intelligent and individualistic”¦and are capable of nearly as many responses in a given circumstance as a human. Some biologists believe the highly adaptable brown bear is intelligent enough to be ranked with primates.”

      What does it say about us, as the human species, that we have been unable to peacefully co-exist with this magnificent and powerful animal? Why can't we find a way to accommodate both our needs and those of the "great bear"?

      Recreational hunters, governments, and conservationists will likely continue to argue about the status of bears, but what matters most in the grizzly hunting debate is that killing these magnificent animals for sport, trophy, and profit has no place in today's society. Poll after poll has shown that most British Columbians agree, but the will of the people will be ignored once again as the spring coastal grizzly hunt resumes on April 1.

      Chris Genovali is the executive director of Raincoast Conservation. For more information visit www.raincoast.org.

      Comments

      10 Comments

      ezekiel bones

      Mar 31, 2009 at 11:30pm

      Good article, thanks. I agree, the hunting of bears is generally not reasonable.

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      ezekiel bones

      Mar 31, 2009 at 11:31pm

      Also, Tim's picture is great.

      I hope someone does an article on the other issues (IPPs, oil tankers) that threaten the bears in the great bear rainforest.

      ezekiel bones

      Apr 1, 2009 at 12:18am

      Yes, Travis, but neither story covered the angle specifically in light of the whole "great bear rainforest" B.C. Liberal farce.

      Don't get me wrong, I Iove the straight, or I wouldn't be obsessively reading it. However, my love leads me to high expectations.

      I want some real journalism about this whole great bear rainforest deal. None of the canwest papers are going to cover the fact that this whole "great bear rainforest" is a giant greenwash without provisions to protect the area from further habitat fragmentations vis a vis IPPs...

      Not to mention the lovely effects that an oil spill would have on the reserve

      ducksrock

      Apr 1, 2009 at 10:05pm

      It's sad to think that all of the Great Bear Rainforest's bears can end up collecting dust in someone's den in Texas. I just don't understand this twisted idea of interior decoration.

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      danny mcclain

      Apr 22, 2009 at 5:12am

      Anyone who shoots a bear Grizzly,Black,Brown is plain and simply a piece of garbage.Hunters dont hunt bear to fill their freezer they hunt because they are spineless and because their parents failed in raising a good person. You know what you can all do with your rugs,,,,,,,,choke on them !

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      Big Fish

      Apr 2, 2010 at 2:34pm

      Hunting is the right of every human, its hunters that have managed wildlife in the past. Go buy your steak from the supermarket, sit back and enjoy!

      erck

      Mar 30, 2011 at 6:26pm

      I've been a hunter basically all my life, I don't like what I see in that video either, but that's not usually how it happens. If anything it's a reflection on that person as a sportsmen and marksmen, which this one would be a poor example of both, for the guide that said to shoot the bear in the ass, he's your piece of garbage. One of the key parts of being a true sportsmen is respect for the animal which obiviously he doesn't have.

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      brent smith

      Jul 12, 2011 at 9:31pm

      The legal hunting of grizzly bears, or any wild game, provides money for conservation efforts through the purchase of licences. Limits on how many animals can be harvested and still maintain a heathly population. Population control for not only nuisance animals, but to stop overpopulation related diseases. Such as chronic wasting disease which is a major problem in some areas for deer.
      Hunting, including guided hunts, brings money into the province, boosting the local economy. Guided hunts can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 for one grizzly.
      The author is not saying that grizzly bear hunting has no place in modern society, The author is really saying that hunting in general isn't understood by URBAN society. City dwelling does not equal modern society. Neither does having a nose-in-the-air attitutde toward something you haven't thoroughly researched or agree with. There are alot of people who provide for their families by working in the hunting industry or by hunting for meat.
      I have seen articles like this before. All the same. "Civilized" People looking down on the "Savage" hunter from their high horse, Without a F*****g clue about what hunting is really all about.

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      Grumpy

      Oct 25, 2013 at 9:04am

      I grew up hunting in BC, hunting in the North, Interior, Coastal, and Vancouver Island.
      I have fed my family and others less fortunate out of the freezers in my house for more than 30 years; including bear(s). I taught my children where their food comes from and what it takes to put it on the table in front of them. Hunters, fishermen, male & female put more money towards environmental protection and wild life management than all the other organizations combined, due some research. We are fortunate to live in a part of the world that is bountiful in wild life. Management , including hunting will be required to ensure it stays that way.