Trophy hunters are turning British Columbia’s protected areas into graveyards for grizzlies, despite the province’s reputation as one of the last continental safe havens for the bears, according to new research by the David Suzuki Foundation.
Threatened bears slaughtered in B.C. parks: New research shows grizzlies being legally hunted in conservation areas
The Foundation has identified more than 60 provincial parks where grizzly bears – which no longer exist or are at risk of extinction in parts of the world – are being hunted for sport. Many of the hunters are from the United States and Europe, where it is either illegal to hunt bears or populations have disappeared.
“Most people think of these parks as big, wildlife conservation areas. They are seen as places where plants and animals are safe from human activity,” said Dr. Faisal Moola, director of terrestrial conservation at the David Suzuki Foundation. “What our research shows is that this perception is absolutely untrue. Grizzlies in B.C. are no safer in a provincial park than they are on the side of a highway.”
British Columbia is one of the last safe havens for grizzlies in North America, although the bears are increasingly threatened by human activity such as resource extraction and hunting. Hundreds of grizzlies have been shot for sport in B.C.’s parks and protected areas over the past three decades, according to the Foundation’s research (see attached graphs). Trophy hunting is taking place in prized wilderness areas including the Northern Rocky Mountains Park, Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Park and the Tatshenshini-Alsek Park – a globally renowned transboundary ecosystem.
"Of all species, grizzlies are among the most vulnerable to human impacts such as habitat destruction, pollution, climate change and overfishing of the salmon they feed on,” said Dr. Chris Darimont, a large carnivore ecologist at the University of California Santa Cruz . “Trophy hunting is further threatening British Columbia’s bears, which should be protected and not killed for sport."
The David Suzuki Foundation is part of an international network of groups, representing more than 15 million members and constituents from over 40 countries, calling on the B.C. government to place an immediate moratorium on trophy hunting of bears – particularly in wilderness areas like the Great Bear Rainforest. The Foundation says the government needs to treat provincial parks as refuges for bears and other wildlife, where they are safe from hunting and populations can recover.
Ironically, the strongest protection for grizzlies exists in places they are largely no longer found, such as the continental U.S. where bears are protected under law. In 2004, the European Union banned the import of grizzly bear trophy items (bodies, skins, skulls and paws) from B.C. over concerns that bear populations are not being managed sustainably. While grizzlies are listed as a species of special concern in Canada, they receive no legal protection under provincial or federal law.
“British Columbia has taken important steps to protect grizzly habitat in some provincial parks by banning resource extraction like logging or mining,” Dr. Moola said. “But these measures are nearly useless without laws that prevent the bears themselves from being shot and killed.”
The Foundation’s recent findings are part of a larger study of trophy hunting and grizzly bear mortality in British Columbia that will be released later next month.
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