David Suzuki Foundation and University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre welcome recommendations to overhaul grizzly bear management in B.C.

Victoria, B.C. — The David Suzuki Foundation and the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre welcome today’s report by the Office of the Auditor General of British Columbia on the provincial government’s management of grizzly bears.

“The auditor general’s assessment is a scathing indictment of the poor management of grizzly bears by successive B.C. governments, going back decades,” said David Suzuki Foundation Ontario and Northern Canada director-general Faisal Moola. “The report found the province continues to lack a clear management plan for the species and has made no progress whatsoever in initiating recovery planning for endangered grizzly populations, such as in the North Cascades, South Selkirks and the Squamish-Lillooet region.”

In 2014, the two organizations filed a petition asking B.C. auditor general Carol Bellringer to initiate an independent review of the B.C. government’s policies and procedures for managing grizzly bears, out of concern that the species was being mismanaged.

A century ago, 35,000 grizzly bears lived in B.C., while others flourished from Alaska to Mexico to Manitoba. Today, only 15,000 grizzly bears inhabit B.C., having disappeared from the Lower Mainland, Okanagan and around Fort St. John. An additional nine grizzly bear populations are on the verge of elimination, and in some cases, only a handful of bears remain, such as in the North Cascades east of Vancouver. Approximately 250 to 300 grizzlies are hunted in B.C. annually in a controversial trophy hunt that the current B.C. government has vowed to reform.

“Bear experts have long known that if we want to keep grizzlies on the landscape, we must protect their habitat and ensure that humans do not needlessly kill them,” said Calvin Sandborne, director of the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre. “The B.C government needs to adopt a precautionary approach to managing grizzly bear populations. The good news is that in places such as the continental U.S., habitat protection, strict access management and a ban on trophy hunting have led to a dramatic recovery of grizzly populations in places where only a few decades ago they had been written off.”

The auditor general report makes 10 recommendations, including that the government:

  • Create and implement a province-wide grizzly bear management plan
  • Develop and resource a science-based inventory of grizzly bear populations in the province
  • Initiate recovery planning for specific populations in rapid decline
  • Significantly reform the way in which grizzly bear hunting happens in the province

The latter recommendation is of particular importance given research by bear biologists at the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University on the widespread and pervasive overkilling of grizzly bears by humans in a number of hunted populations in the province.

“We are pleased with the B.C. government’s decision to accept all 10 recommendations in the auditor general’s report,” Moola said. “We remain concerned, however, by the province’s plan to continue allowing grizzly bear hunting across B.C. as a regulated ‘food hunt’. Such a policy has a built-in loophole that allows recreational hunters to kill grizzlies as long as they surrender the animal’s head, pelt, claws, teeth and other ‘trophy’ items to a government official, or remove the meat from the carcass and pack it out. That needs to change.”

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For more information, please contact:

Faisal Moola, David Suzuki Foundation: 647-993-5788 | fmoola@davidsuzuki.org Calvin Sandborne, University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre: 250-721-8188 | csandbor@uvic.ca

A copy of the auditor general’s report can be downloaded at: http://www.bcauditor.com/sites/default/files/publications/reports/FINALGrizzlyBear_Management.pdf