This was written by Hannah Jensen, an Environmental Science student from North Vancouver. When she isn’t at SFU, you’ll find her working as a lifeguard, training for triathlons, or going on adventures in the outdoors.
Did you know that 300 to 400 grizzlies are hunted for trophy each year in BC?
The David Suzuki Foundation estimates that approximately half of our country’s grizzly bears reside in BC. Each year we allow this population to be steadily diminished for the enjoyment of a few greedy, short-sighted hunters.
There are arguments that can be made in favour of hunting for subsistence. One could say that it is better to kill an animal humanely after it has lived a free, natural life. If all parts of the animal are used and hunters do not overexploit populations, hunting can be justified in certain cases. However, most trophy hunters only take the pelt, head, or paws of grizzlies and other large predators.
To make matters worse, about one-third of the grizzlies killed are females, as it is difficult to differentiate them from males. If a mother is killed, its cubs cannot survive. Killing females also limits the ability of the population to maintain healthy numbers and genetic diversity.
While some may argue that trophy hunting brings money into the province, eco-tourism is actually a far larger source of revenue. Bear viewing tours are popular with tourists and account for millions of dollars of BC’s Gross Domestic Product. If we continue to allow grizzlies to be hunted, eventually there will be too few left for these tours to take place.
The BC government claims that BC has a grizzly bear population of 15,000. However, independent scientists estimate that this number could be as low as 6,000 to 8,000. These bears are sorted into 57 population units, 9 of which are already listed as threatened. In addition, forestry, infrastructure, and other human developments have fragmented grizzly habitat, extirpating them from 18% of their original range. Salmon stocks have also been in decline in recent years. In short, grizzlies are in a vulnerable position, which will only be intensified as anthropogenic exploits permeate more and more of BC’s wild areas. With so much uncertainty over their true status, there is no way that we can justify intentionally killing these animals.
Grizzly bears are a keystone species, meaning that they maintain balance within their ecosystems. They dictate the size of prey populations, aid with seed dispersal, and deposit salmon carcasses in the forest, which contributes nitrogen to plant species. In addition to their ecological role, one might say that grizzly bears are an integral piece of BC’s genetic makeup. We take pride in our province for being wild and beautiful, and every time we let a trophy hunter kill one of our most valuable predators, we are letting a piece of this ideal die along with it.
Image source from http://www.wildlifedefenceleague.org/campaigns-2/
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