David Suzuki: B.C.'s trophy hunt is unbearable

For millennia, aboriginal people have hunted wildlife for food, traditional purposes, and trade. But coastal First Nations in British Columbia argue that killing a threatened animal simply for the thrill of it is foreign to their culture.

We call it sport, as if the animals had entered into a life and death game. At a recent news conference held by opponents of the grizzly and black bear hunts on the B.C. coast, Haida leader Guujaaw said, “It’s not right that anyone should make a sport of killing.”

I agree. Grizzlies are officially designated as a threatened species, and black bear subspecies on the B.C. coast are among the most diverse in North America, ranging from the spirit or kermode bear to the Haida black bear. Yet, the B.C. government has ignored pleas from First Nations and conservation groups and has continued to allow these majestic animals to be killed for sport, even in many parks and protected areas and in the Great Bear Rainforest.

The results are devastating. In the 30 years that the government has kept records, close to 11,000 grizzly bears have been killed in B.C., 88 per cent of them by sport hunters. Many are big-game hunters from the U.S. and Europe who pay thousands of dollars to kill a bear in B.C., since these marvellous bruins no longer exist in their own home countries.

First Nations have shared the land with bears for thousands of years. According to Guujaaw, “Bears are as much a part of the environment as we are.” Indeed, the bears that feed, breed, and roam among the archipelago of islands and lush mainland valleys of British Columbia play important roles in the ecosystems they inhabit.

For example, bears, like other large predatory animals, help regulate prey populations such as deer, and so prevent overgrazing in forests. Bears feeding on salmon in streams also distribute the nutrients from the fish carcasses across the forest floor. It is a direct transfer of nutrients from the ocean to the forest, and one of the reasons why coastal forests are so rich in biodiversity and why the trees grow to such monstrous sizes.

The ethical and scientific reasons to end the sport hunt are compelling, but so too are the economic arguments. This is particularly true for aboriginal communities that see the non-consumptive use of bears, such as bear-viewing, as potential sources of employment and income for their struggling communities. In 2003, a study by the Centre for Integral Economics showed that grizzly-bear viewing brings in twice the income for coastal communities as the trophy hunt. One bear-watching operation in Knight Inlet alone grossed over $3 million in direct revenue in 2007—more than all trophy-hunting revenue combined.

“Each bear killed is one less bear that tourists will pay top dollar to photograph,” said Dean Wyatt of the Commercial Bear Viewing Association at the news conference. “Only a total ban on trophy hunting will ensure that bear populations can support the high-end viewing operations that add valuable income to coastal communities.”

Protecting opportunities for aboriginal businesses to participate in the multi-million dollar eco-tourism industry in B.C. must be a priority for government. Art Sterritt, executive director of the Coastal First Nations Turning Point Initiative, argued that government must manage bears to promote sustainable tourism. “This is not a sustainable industry,” Sterritt has said of trophy hunting. “It is jeopardizing the sustainable industries we are trying to create.”

Killing bears for sport makes no sense scientifically, but it is also unethical and immoral to hunt these animals so they become a head on a wall or rug in front of a fireplace when tourists are willing to pay for the chance to photograph them alive and in the wild. Most British Columbians agree. A 2008 McAllister Research poll found that 79 per cent of B.C. residents believe that to kill a bear simply for the thrill of it is reprehensible and that the practice should end.

Today, the only place you’ll find a grizzly bear south of Wyoming is on California’s state flag. It would be more than a shame if all we had left to remember these magnificent animals in B.C. were a few films and First Nations carvings.

Take David Suzuki’s Nature Challenge and learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org/.




May 27, 2009 at 7:06am

This has been in a day and nobody has commented?

This nasty hypocrite DaGucci here actively campaigned to reelect the government that instigated the bear hunt and now refuses to end it. He must have believed then that Gordo's two cent a liter gas was worth more than the bears, the salmon, the ocean, the forest, and the rivers. Or was it something else? Hmmm.

How does DaGucc here feel now that Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman has shown the NDP's cap n'trade to be far effective than a carbon tax in reducing CO2 emissions.

This guy ranks right up there with Patrick Moore as a fake environmentalist, yet he has the sheer gall to keep writing like nothing happened.

Evil Eye

May 27, 2009 at 10:58am

Go home David, no one wants to hear from Quisslings.

Be Honest

May 27, 2009 at 12:37pm

The sport Grizzly hunt takes 1-2% of the population. I know it doesn't support your argument but let's be honest here.

Grizzly populations are on the rise - get out in the bush, away from your two waterfront properties, spend some time fishing on the central / north coast and you will understand that the Grizzly pop. is quite strong

Bears Matter

May 28, 2009 at 10:23am

Trophy Hunting is a 'dying' hobby. One day it will be socially unacceptable to hang large carnivores on the wall or use them as rugs or throw blankets. Trophy hunters are not hunters of meat, are not conservationists, are not sportspersons. They are killers of the biggest and the best of a beautiful and increasingly rare species. The less of the wild animal remaining on the planet the more trophy hunters seek it out to kill. There is a reason that the grizzly hunt in BC and Yukon is so lucrative for the outfitters...the biggest and the best bears are harder and harder to find. These trophy animals are found in increasingly remote regions. The coastal hunt of BC is one of the most accessible of the hunts because they use boats along the shoreline, and with the motor up, they can shoot a bear without even getting out of the boat. They advertize these hunts as good for the 'mobility challenged' clients. Where is the sport, where is the purpose, where is the morality? BC still counts bears like they had been in Alberta and surprise, surprise - Alberta thought they had 1,000 grizzlies and they actually have less than 400. They found out the hard way that the traditional counting of wildlife is sadly flawed and have spent some millions since 2006 counting the grizzlies more accurately. The trophy hunters are still campaigning to hunt grizzlies in Alberta even though the government wisely closed it in 2006. Trophy bear hunters beware you are under threat of extirpation from the coast of BC and hopefully one day soon in all of BC and around the world. You need to start re-thinking how you can spend your spare time and spare money...perhaps bear viewing or volunteering to help those less fortunate?

Bruce Dean

May 28, 2009 at 10:46am

Whatever the numbers are - killing for sport is pathetic.

If you feel the need to kill something - have you head examined.

Check out these photos to see what killing bears is all about.

They are my photos but Flickr rates them as "RESTRICTED" because they are so offensive.




May 28, 2009 at 3:02pm

Of course when it comes to first nation eagle killings then everyone is walking on eggs and even the RCMP almost apologizes to the criminals...
That's politically correct...


May 29, 2009 at 8:53pm

The Coastal First Nations have asked that the trophy hunting of bears be stopped in the Great Bear Rainforest and the Haida Gwaii. If the traditional residents of this region are asking that is be stopped and saying that it is wrong and unsustainable, why should we disagree? Plus, the money to be made from bear viewing and ecotourism far outweighs the money to be made from endangering the bear population through hunting.

Thank you to David Suzuki and Faisal Moola for bringing some attention to this issue.

Hunters Suck!

Jun 5, 2009 at 1:05pm

I can not imagine why anyone would want this hunt to continue. Think of the bear cubs left to die when their mother is shot down to be a wall hanging. There is no sport in this. I say if they want it to be a sport give the "hunters" a simple knife and face the bear head on...make it at least an even playing field....a gun...come on boys where is the sport in that? A knife is all you need, and if you make it out alive, well that can be the trophy!