On Monday, March 2nd, I tabled a bill that restricts the practices of non-resident trophy hunters coming to B.C. to kill large game by making two specific amendments to the Wildlife Act.
The proposed changes remove grizzly bears from the list of animals exempt from meat harvesting regulations and ensure all edible portions of game animals killed in B.C. are taken directly to the hunter’s residence.
As the legislation currently stands, it is illegal to waste meat when hunting in B.C., unless the animal you have killed is a cougar, wolf, lynx, bobcat, wolverine, or grizzly bear. The edible parts of big game animals must be removed from the animal and packed out to one’s home, or importantly for non-resident hunters, to a meat cutter or a cold storage plant. These last two options provide trophy hunters with legal meat laundering opportunities. By adding “directly or through” to the clause hunters can still use meat cutters and cold storage plants to process their harvests, but it can’t end there. The meat must make it to their home address. If they want to donate that meat to charity after the fact they are welcome to do so, but they have to take it home first.
Hunters are already required to remove the edible portions from black bears, if enacted, this bill would bring meat harvesting standards for grizzly bears up to the same level.
For local sustenance hunters – the vast majority of hunters in B.C. – this bill merely echoes what they are already doing; harvesting wild game to bring the meat home to feed themselves and their families. For non-resident trophy hunters coming to B.C. to bag an animal for its hide, skull, or antlers this poses a larger logistical challenge of exporting large quantities of meat.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide the government with another tool to address the growing concerns about trophy hunting in our province. As with any tool the government develops, its effectiveness is entirely dependent on government’s commitment to using it as it was designed. If government were to pass this bill, but fail to enforce its provisions, or provide regulatory loopholes for guide outfitters, then its purpose will be undermined. It will be up to government to make a commitment to embracing the values that are at the heart of this Bill and using them in a meaningful manner.
This is not a perfect solution, of course, but it is an achievable step in the right direction of protecting the interests of sustenance hunters while reducing the wasteful influence of non-resident hunters who come to our province to kill our wildlife acting with disregard for its value as a food source. It is also a strong legislative move towards conserving grizzly bear populations in B.C. as it forces the government to reevaluate its outdated grizzly hunting mandate. It shows the current government that we are serious about conserving grizzly bears through working collaboratively with conservation organizations like the British Columbia Wildlife Federation, BC’s First Nations and BC’s resident hunters.
Brown bears, of which grizzlies are the North American subspecies, were once found on four continents, making them one of the most widespread mammal populations in the world. Their original range included Europe, North Africa, northern and central Asia, the Middle East, and North America. Today, they are locally extinct or endangered across the map — except in Russia, Alaska, and B.C.
According to the provincial government’s 2002 report on B.C. grizzly bears, in North America healthy grizzly bear populations once extended from northern Mexico to the Yukon, and from the West Coast to Hudson Bay. As human populations began to expand, grizzly numbers steadily declined as their habitat became fragmented, their food sources threatened, and they were killed for recreation and for getting too close to the people who were moving into their territory.
British Columbia and Alaska are the last strongholds of grizzly bear populations on the planet, though the exact numbers are contested because the bear’s solitary and roaming nature makes them difficult and expensive to study. The B.C. government estimates there are 15,000 grizzly bears in the province today, some independent scientists and First Nations groups think there could be as few as 6,000.
Precise population number aside, the global trend for brown bears is clearly one that favours extinction. The Himalayan brown bear has dwindled to two per cent of its former range and there are an estimated 49 brown bears left in Italy. Mexico’s grizzlies are now extinct and the last known Californian grizzly was shot in the 1920s. The Liberal government maintains the fate of B.C.’s grizzly bears will be different, but the government’s scientific justifications for the hunt in some regions are harshly criticized by many local and international scientists.
Like Canada’s polar bears, B.C.’s grizzly bears have been listed as a “species of special concern” by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Unlike their Arctic cousins, though, grizzly bears don’t qualify for federally legislated conservation measures.
In addition to the unrelenting pressure brought by climate change, industrial expansion, and habitat destruction, this iconic species is pursued by “hunters” who come to B.C. to kill a prize bear. The importation of B.C. grizzly bear parts into the European Union has been banned for over a decade because they think the hunt is being unsustainably managed. The wealthy non-resident hunters who come to our province to buy a grizzly trophy, therefore, are predominantly from the U.S. They cut off the bear’s head, paws, and fur but leave the bodies behind to rot.
This so-called sport has been banned by nine coastal First Nations and is opposed by nearly 90 percent of British Columbians. Importantly, 95 percent of hunters surveyed in the province-wide McAllister Research poll also agreed that people should not be hunting if they are not prepared to eat what they kill.
I support sustainable, respectful sustenance hunting in British Columbia that is grounded in a science-based conservation policy. It with this in mind that I introduced the Bill today.
This bill is an attempt to bring the environmental and hunting communities together. Many urban environmentalists don’t realize that BC hunters and their supporting organizations (like BCWF, Ducks Unlimited and Fish and Wildlife organizations) are some of the most active conservationalists. At the same time, some hunters believe that most urban environmentalists are out to stop hunting. The reality is that almost everyone I have spoken with is on the same page. They support hunting for food. They don’t support hunting only for trophies. This bill supports the former and penalizes the later.