The number of grizzly bears killed since 1975 in British Columbia is 13,804, according to data published by the David Suzuki Foundation on April 1. This means that, on average, a grizzly bear has been shot almost every day in B.C. for the past 40 years.
That number, 13,804, is very close to the total number of grizzly bears the province claims still exist in B.C.: 15.000. This comprises one-quarter of the number of bears that remain in North America and is a tiny fraction of the number that once roamed this continent.
The B.C. government’s defence of the trophy hunt of grizzly bears is unacceptable, and we must make 2017 the year in which we end this barbaric practice.
We often refer to this province as "Supernatural British Columbia", and with good reason. It’s one of the last wild places on the planet where bears and other endangered wildlife still exist in relatively healthy numbers. But supernatural British Columbia is threatened by habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change. If we want the province to remain supernatural, we have to accept our global responsibility to protect the beauty and natural richness of this province.
I grew up in Northwest Germany and loved nature from a young age. But the critters I was most excited about—such as bears, wolves, and eagles—I would only see in books. They have been driven to extinction in most parts of Europe. My family and I moved to B.C. 11 years ago, thinking it would be for two years.
I still live in B.C. because I realized how much richer and happier I am living in a part of the world where wild places and wild animals still exist. I will never forget my first awe-inspiring encounters with bears along this beautiful coast. I will never forget being able to share this experience with our daughter. And I want our children to have the same opportunities to watch bears with their children.
Bears have been around on the planet much longer than humans. Grizzly bears evolved more than a million years ago in Europe before migrating to North America. It only took us a few hundred years to kill most of them and drive them out from most of their range in North America.
In fact, scientists have warned that we have entered the age of the sixth mass extinction. The rate at which species extinction occurs has increased by a factor of 1,000 compared to the rate in previous millennia and could still increase up to a factor of 10,000.
Every day, we are learning more about how large animals enrich ecosystems and provide countless benefits for the life-support systems of our planet. Whales, for example feed in great depths and fertilize the ocean with dung, enhancing the carbon sink. Wolves are stabilizing river banks by keeping deer away from trees along unstable riparian areas that deer would otherwise deplete. Grizzly bears are fertilizing B.C.’s coastal temperate rainforests, distributing the nutrients carried from the ocean by salmon. These are just a few examples of larger animal species that help maintain ecosystem integrity and enhance their capacity to absorb carbon from the atmosphere.
There is no excuse whatsoever to continue allowing the trophy hunt of grizzly bears. More than 90 percent of British Columbians are against it, the majority of First Nations are against it, and the majority of urban and rural British Columbians are against it. British Columbians support bear-viewing, not bear-killing and studies led by researchers from Stanford University have shown that bear-viewing provides more economic benefits than killing bears.
The lives of thousands of people are enriched by creating opportunities for bear-viewing, without harming animals or other people’s interests. Killing bears for sport is taking away this opportunity from countless numbers of people who could have observed the same animal. Killing bears for sport is also robbing the opportunity from our children’s children to see them in the wild.
A better future for all of us includes ending the grizzly-bear trophy hunt. It also includes clean air and water, jobs and prosperity built on renewable alternatives instead of fossil-fuel pipe dreams, and a livable climate, all of which help preserve the life-support systems the natural world provides for us.
We have to step up to the plate like we mean it and give grizzly bears and other critters a fighting chance to be around for another million years.
Let’s make 2017 the year in which we save the great bears of British Columbia. Ask your candidates where they stand on killing bears for sport and vote on May 9.
Remember 2016: bad things happen if people don’t come out and vote.