British Columbia’s Coastal First Nations (CFN) is taking a new approach to protect grizzly bears and convince people that they are worth more alive than dead with a new program that’s inviting trophy hunters to come to the Great Bear Rainforest and shoot them.
There’s just one catch: hunters have to trade their guns for cameras.
From CFN’s standpoint the debate isn’t so much about hunting as it is about trophy hunting, or just going out and pointlessly taking an animal’s life for no reason – which is something 87 percent of British Columbians who were polled last fall are against.
“Like most hunters in B.C., I hunt to feed my family,” said Heiltsuk Coastwatch Director, William Housty, in a statement. “Whether you’re First Nations or not, it’s against our common values to kill animals for fun. If anyone’s still not convinced, I encourage them to leave their guns and come see these beautiful coastal grizzlies from our perspective.”
Now, in the first of many efforts to come, CFN is holding a drawing for an all expenses paid trip to the Spirit Bear Lodge in exchange for hunters’ bear tags that includes round-trip airfare for two and “daily adventures deep into grizzly country with experienced professional guides.”
CFN issued a formal ban on trophy hunting for bears in 2012 in an effort to protect them and viewing opportunities and also in part to protect rare Spirit Bears – an all-white species of black bear. Unfortunately, the ban isn’t recognized by the government of British Columbia, which still holds spring and fall hunts for grizzly and black bears in First Nations territory.
The government and some hunters continue to use the argument that grizzly hunting is sustainable and their financial contributions are funding conservation and wildlife management efforts, but CFN believes that promoting ecotourism in the area is a far more lucrative option.
According to the alliance, bear viewing in the Great Bear Rainforest generates 12 times more money for the province’s economy than bear hunting. It pointed to a recent study out of Stanford University comparing the economic value of hunting and ecotourism that drew the “overwhelming conclusion” that bear watching generates far more value for the economy than hunting does.
“It’s a fact that bears are worth more alive than they are dead,” said Kitasoo/Xai’xais Stewardship Director and Spirit Bear Lodge guide Douglas Neasloss. “You don’t have to harvest a resource to get value from a resource. Bears bring huge value to coastal ecosystems, and to my community in terms of a sustainable economy.”
There’s been some criticism and questions about whether hunters will be willing to give up coveted bear tags, but Jess Housty, an elected member of the Heiltsuk Tribal Council and board member of the Coastal First Nations, told the Vancouver Sun that people are already showing interest.
“We already have hunters reaching out to let us know they intend to participate,” she said. “Every authorization matters, and I’m raising my hands in gratitude to everyone who steps up to take leadership in protecting the bears.”
Anyone holding a tag for this fall’s hunt is being encouraged to contact the Spirit Bear Lodge.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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