And the Winners Are…

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Well, we did it! You did it!!

Not only did we raise the $13,000 I set out as our goal for the Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter fundraiser for a new truck, but we actually raised a staggering $23,757.60 in the final five days!! As our totals climbed dramatically throughout the week, I was privy to some truly wonderful text messages and emails from the Shelter’s founders, Peter and Angelika Langen:

3 hours into the fundraiser:
Angelika: “$2600 so far, I am speechless!!

5 hours into the fundraiser, when we hit $3,000, meaning that Hauser Bears would automatically contribute an extra $15,000:
Angelika: “We did it!! We matched the challenge. Now we have $30,000+ towards a new truck, I am so excited if my leg didn’t hurt so bad I’d be dancing! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

The first night, after we’d raised almost $5,000:
Angelika: “I am crying tears of joy, this is so exciting! Exciting may be a huge understatement!

The second night, after another $2,000 in donations:
Angelika: “WOW, we are SO happy!!

The third night, after yet another $2,000 in donations:
Angelika: “This is so amazing! We just can’t believe it!

On the final night:
Angelika: “We are over the goal! SO, SO awesome!! We did it!!

So yes indeed, we ALL did it! The truck fundraiser as a whole, including the incredible matching contribution of $15,000 from the UK charity Hauser Bears, raised a whopping $54,254.14 (you can check out the entire breakdown here on the Shelter’s website). This means that Angelika and Peter and their gang of incredible volunteers at the Shelter are going to have a new ride soon (they’re currently in negotiations with a truck dealership in Prince George, British Columbia) and that the Shelter will continue to be able to save bears and other orphaned wildlife from across the province long into the future!

Your incredible support means that little guys like this will continue to receive help from the NLWS in the years to come!

Congratulations to everyone involved, especially to those of you that donated directly or were able to share the fundraiser contest on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.

Here is a comprehensive list of all of the winners of the various prizes we had up for grabs in the fundraiser. If you see your name on this list, please contact me directly via email so that we can arrange your prize details.

Grand Prize WinnerA Trip for Two for the Great Bear Chalet in Bella Coola, BC
(thank you once again to Jefferson Bray and the Great Bear Chalet for this incredible prize!)
Marcella Kyrein – Prince George, BC

A Day in the Field Photographing with John E. Marriott (to the highest donation):
Esther Snow – Cranbrook, BC

A Day’s Private Visit at NLWS (a prize we added for the second highest donation):
Daniella Kohl – Miami, Florida

30″x45″ Glossy Acrylic Print of ‘All in the Family’ by John E. Marriott
Gregory Heath – Calgary, AB

One Full Set of signed and personalized Coffee Table Books by John E. Marriott
Lorelei Stevenson – Cranbrook, BC

12″x18″ Glossy Print of ‘Grizz Family Bums’ by Cai Priestley
Susan Macdonald – Livingston, West Lothian, UK

12″x18″ Glossy Print of ‘Startled Cub’ by Cai Priestley
Jane Potter – Calgary, AB

12″x18″ Stretched Canvas of ‘Tuxedo Cubs’ by Brandon T. Brown
Margaret Johnson – Maple Ridge, BC

12″x18″ Stretched Canvas of ‘Mister Mud’ by Brandon T. Brown
Rosa Jongsma – High Level, AB

16″x24″ Glossy Print of any of John E. Marriott’s grizzly bear images — your choice!
Dawn Minerick – Republic, Michigan

16″x24″ Glossy Print of any of John E. Marriott’s grizzly bear images — your choice!
Loretta Stadler Franklin Lakes, NJ

24″x36″ Glossy Print of any of John E. Marriott’s grizzly bear images — your choice!
Marlie Kelsey – Chemainus, BC

24″x36″ Glossy Print of any of John E. Marriott’s grizzly bear images — your choice!
Heather Sapergia – Prince George, BC

Angelika at the NLWS also had this to add to the prize pile:
“We had many donations that did not meet the $50 mark, nevertheless your support is very important and much appreciated. To show our gratitude for all of these smaller donations that added up to a very large amount, we decided to have a special draw for a 16″x24″ glossy print of any of John Marriott’s grizzly bear images (your choice) out of all of the donations we received of less than $50!”

Special Draw Winner, 16″x24″ Glossy Print by John E. Marriott
Tammy Vanderwijk – Grande Prairie, AB

Thank you once again, everyone, I don’t think any of us could have imagined that the fundraiser would be so successful!

Cecil and Brutus: The Legacy of Cecil the Lion

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For any of you that have been living under a rock for the past few days, it may come as a surprise to learn that the internet’s latest sensation is not a Beiber or a Kardashian, but rather a Palmer. It seems while most of us were going on living normal lives and perhaps even doing good for our planet, an American dentist named Walter Palmer was off doing idiotic things in Africa, bribing local guides with $55,000 Ben Franklins for the chance to bow-hunt a protected male lion named Cecil.

Screenshot from www.cbc.ca

As it turned out, Cecil was probably the last lion on earth that Mr. Palmer should have pointed his moral-less compass at, as Cecil was one of the world’s most famous, most photographed, and most known lions.

The uproar has been fast and furious, as well it should be when an animal of Cecil’s stature is murdered. Palmer now finds himself at the center of one of the internet’s greatest shaming campaigns of all time. His business is in trouble, his life is in tatters, he’s in hiding, and he’s sorry. Oh my, is he ever sorry. Mind you, he’s not sorry that he killed a lion in the most gruesome of ways, he’s just sorry that he killed a famous lion. And he’s particularly sorry that his grievous actions have brought more attention on him than any of his previous egocentric activities ever had in the past.

And Cecil? Well, Cecil is dead. Killed to be a trophy hanging off this f**king you-know-what’s wall to go along with an assortment of other heads of animals he’s murdered around the world.

There has long been an argument in the guide-outfitting community internationally that the hard-earned dollars these great white hunters spend on trophy hunts of lions, leopards, elephants, and rhinos helps the local villages to survive, providing them with food and jobs and money for development projects, while at the same time furnishing conservation initiatives. The truth behind these arguments is startling: just three percent of those trophy hunting revenues ever reach the communities located near the hunting grounds.

The real value, it turns out, is in having these great animals like Cecil alive and part of a thriving ecosystem, so that they can truly bring in revenue to a local community, dollars that arrive over the lifetime of the animal in the form of tourist dollars. So while there is no shower of $55K at a time, there are thousands of dollars that flow in each year, adding up to far more than $55K and leaving the animal alive and well to foster new families, leaving a legacy behind in the wild for our children..

Which brings me to Brutus the Bear. Brutus lived for almost thirty years in the protected Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary in British Columbia, Canada. What would the outcry have been if someone had discovered Brutus’ mangled corpse with a bullet-hole in it? With an arrow sticking out of his shoulder?

Brutus the Bear lived for almost thirty years in the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary in British Columbia

There are 40-50 grizzlies in the Khutzeymateen. Approximately 400 bear viewers a year pay an average of $750 a day (for an average stay of three days) to get the chance to view Brutus and his brethren up close in the protected estuary, while another 5,000 a year pay $200 a day to view grizzlies in the greater inlet, which is also protected. So while a guide-outfitter like Prince Rupert’s own Milligan’s Outfitting might charge $15-20,000 for the rights for a dentist like Palmer to come shoot one of our bears like Brutus, the bears of the Khutzeymateen bring in direct ecotourism revenues of $1.9 million dollars annually, most of which goes right back into Prince Rupert and the surrounding communities. Guide-outfitters in the area would need to kill 95 grizzlies a year (comically impossible in a population of 40-50) to keep up revenue-wise, essentially cleaning out the Khutzeymateen and all the neighbouring inlets within a few years.

Yet the Khutzeymateen remains Canada’s sole grizzly bear sanctuary. Outside of Alberta (which has a grizzly hunting ban in effect), fewer than 10% of Canada’s grizzly bears live in protected areas. And even of the ones that do, like Brutus, most of them stray outside the protected areas during their lifetimes because our protected areas simply aren’t big enough.

For the rest of those grizzlies that do not have the luxury of living in a protected area, they’re at the mercy of sociopaths like Walter Palmer who pay to come up and assassinate our bears. And we continue to let our own resident hunters go out and slaughter our grizzlies, too.

Let’s be clear about this: this is not hunting for food, it is hunting to kill for the sake of killing. These so-called hunters do it so they can go home and brag about how they stalked and killed a great bear (using a high-powered rifle from 400 meters away) and display its head up on their wall like some great trophy. Do it with a bowie knife and maybe then you’re some kind of great hero, though even that would still beg the question, “Why do you need to kill a grizzly bear?

Some of you may scoff at all of this and think that what happened to Cecil surely couldn’t happen here in Canada. We’ve got a great conservation officer service throughout the provinces that keeps a handle on poachers, right? Think again. British Columbia’s top hunting guide in the Guide-Outfitter’s Association for 2015 was just found guilty of hunting a grizzly using bait. That’s illegal. That’s poaching. That’s the guy who just won the most prestigious award as the top guide in the province.

It’s time for more grizzly bear sanctuaries like the Khutzeymateen

The hunting community is running out of excuses standing up for this senseless slaughter. The grizzly bear hunt does not have a leg to stand on scientifically, economically, or ethically. It is time for it to come to an end, just as it is time for all trophy hunting of all species to come to an end.

We are better than this. We are better than Walter Palmer. It’s time we started voting this way in our elections and getting governments in that will listen to the majority of us that want an end to trophy hunting forever.

It’s time for more Khutzeymateens and more support for ecotourism worldwide. It’s time for Cecil the Lion to leave a legacy that we can no longer ignore.

Fired up and want to do something tangible to help put an end to the grizzly bear hunt in British Columbia once and for all? Then please Share this post across your network of friends on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, and Twitter to help get the word out.  Donate to organizations fighting the hunt like Pacific Wild, Raincoast, or Bears Forever. Or Email our Canadian politicians: British Columbia Premier Christy Clark (premier@gov.bc.ca) and Steve Thomson, the Minister of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations (steve.thomson.mla@leg.bc.ca) and send them this link along with your views on the trophy hunt. 

#CeciltheLion #bantrophyhunting

Banff’s $67 Million Dollar Joke

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As usual, it is a rant that gets me back onto my blog train. This time around, it’s the federal government’s announcement last Wednesday, July 15th, that the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park is going to get a $67 million dollar facelift widening its shoulders to create a bike path between Banff and Lake Louise (under the guise that the changes will make it safer for cyclists and motorists, alike).

Fresh on the heels of a series of government sell-outs/development approvals in the core of our mountain national parks — the ridiculous Skywalk at the Icefields in Jasper, the Mt Norquay gondola in Banff, and the Marmot Basin ski hill expansion in Jasper in the heart of endangered mountain caribou range — this decision to widen the Bow Valley Parkway reeks of business interests getting their way once again within our national parks at the expense of ecological integrity (y’know, that minor thing the entire parks system was created to protect).

Will wildlife sightings along the Bow Valley Parkway become a thing of the past?

Who does this “infrastructure improvement” benefit? Certainly not the wildlife along the Bow Valley Parkway. Anyone that has driven the Trans-Canada Highway between Banff and Canmore in recent years can attest to the extraordinary popularity of the new Legacy Trail (a paved bike path that runs parallel to the Trans-Canada Highway between the two resort towns) and it’s easy to count the impact it’s had on local recreation between the towns. Yesterday, I drove that stretch of highway at 2:30 p.m. and counted 113 cyclists, runners, mountain bikers, skateboarders, and roller skiers using the 21-kilometer pathway. So now imagine how many recreational users are going to take advantage of the proposed new bike path along the Bow Valley Parkway, with broad, paved, 2.5-meter shoulders, and a leisurely, winding route through gorgeous montane and subalpine forests and meadows. It will be a zoo. A zoo without any animals in it, that is.

A number of years ago I was invited by Parks Canada to be on a Bow Valley Parkway (BVP) stakeholder committee to determine the future direction of the BVP in terms of wildlife management and visitor engagement. Specifically, one of our key tasks was to help determine whether or not Parks Canada should close certain parts of the Parkway during key times of the year to protect wildlife.

The process was long and drawn out over years worth of meetings, research, and communication between stakeholders. I held a unique position on the committee in that I was a member of the business community (I had business relationships with all three resorts on the BVP), yet I was also a vocal environmental advocate in the community, so I had close ties to many of the Parks representatives and the environmental organizations.

In the final meeting of the committee, I abstained from attending and instead submitted a seven-page letter which I had the chair of the committee read out loud. I knew that I was a potential ‘swing’ vote and I also knew that my decision was likely going to alienate myself from either the business community or the environmental community. Yet my choice was clear, despite the fact that closing the BVP during critical times of the year would impact my photography business directly financially, I was 100% in favour of the closure and chastised those who were putting their own business interests ahead of the interests of the park’s wildlife.

From April 1st to June 25th each year now, the Bow Valley Parkway is closed to all traffic (including bikes and pedestrians) from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. each night to “give animals free rein to use the area and feed in the critical spring months following winter hibernation.” Designed specifically to provide some relief to grizzly and black bears to forage on the BVP’s wide right-of-ways that green up early each spring, the closure has also benefited local wolves, cougars, elk, and deer, among others.

The BVP closure was implemented to allow animals to feed freely along the roadside

The committee that I was a part of never did discuss widening the Bow Valley Parkway or making a designated bike path along it. Safety was not an issue, nor was increasing recreational use. After all, we had just agreed to decrease use. What we did discuss was how to make the BVP more wildlife-friendly so that visitors could see more wildlife along it: light more prescribed burns, create more meadow-like habitat using selective logging and thinning, add speed bumps to reduce speeding. 

We definitely did not discuss how we could turn the BVP into a wildlife-free zone during daylight hours, which is exactly what this proposed bike path and widening of the road will do for all but the most habituated animals. It’s not hard to see that there will be a dramatic increase in bike and foot traffic, and that wider roads with broader shoulders will likely lead to an increase in speeding and reckless driving from locals and tourists. And it’s critical to note that widening the Parkway will take away at least 5 meters of vital right-of-way, this same valuable roadside foraging habitat that the mandatory spring closure was supposed to allow animals easy access to.

So with more traffic, more disturbances (roadside wildlife reacts far more negatively to cyclists, for instance, than to vehicles), and less roadside forage for animals to eat, the end result is going to be a Bow Valley Parkway with a lot fewer wildlife sightings. It’s a lose-lose situation: park visitors that drive the BVP to see wildlife lose out on that chance, and park wildlife loses out on getting to eat the fabulous roadside buffet of grasses, dandelions, willows, and berries that currently exists on the Parkway.

And that doesn’t take into account the enormous, disruptive impact the construction process would have on everyone (wildlife and humans) for several summers in order to widen the road.

Would the widening of the BVP make it safer for motorists and cyclists as the July 15th federal announcement highlights? Absolutely. The road that has never had a cycling OR vehicular fatality on it would continue to be just as safe as it always has been, maybe even more so (a number of cyclists wondered aloud on Twitter this week why an already safe road needs to be made even safer). Meanwhile, the 1A highway west of Morley in our federal riding really does not have shoulders on it (the BVP actually already has shoulders and is quite easy to pull over safely on, particularly given the 60 km/hr speed limit) and is a constant source of fatalities, yet not a dime will be spent on that piece of infrastructure which runs through the Stoney Nakoda reserve. Maybe that’s not as sexy as announcing big funding for our premier national park with the national election around the corner?

And what’s being missed in all of this is that our national parks should not be prioritizing road biking over ecological integrity. People can road bike anywhere in the world, they cannot drive a beautiful, scenic 60 km/hr road and have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see bears and wolves anywhere in the world.

If the federal government really wants to spend that $67 million on something useful, then I suggest they use it to enrich existing wildlife habitat along the Bow Valley Parkway to truly enhance the visitor experience for everyone from wildlife photographers like myself to the family of five from India that is visiting Canada for the very first time in the hopes of seeing a wild bear in the mountains.  Spend that money on clearing the right-of-ways along the Icefields Parkway so that visitors and locals alike can see more wildlife along there and avoid collisions with animals that can step straight onto the road from the dense cover that lines that road for much of its length. Or take those valuable dollars and continue to build wildlife fencing along Highway 93 South in Kootenay National Park, which has long been a killing field for everything from moose and wolves to deer and bears.

And if you really have to build a bike path between Banff and Lake Louise, do it where it belongs: right beside the Trans-Canada Highway just like the existing Legacy Trail.

Got a Comment? Agree or Disagree? Let me know in the Comments section below.

Death by a Thousand Cuts

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RANT time: great article in yesterday’s Red Deer Advocate illustrating just how devastating snaring is to wild wolves (http://tinyurl.com/pb6qht4). Imagine this gorgeous wolf slowly choking to death over the course of three or four days, because that’s exactly what happens thousands of times across Alberta each winter.

The Red Deer Advocate reports that neck snares lead to “a painful, agonizing death…in blood-spattered snow.”

It’s time Alberta stepped into the 21st century with its wildlife management, so please consider doing three things right now to Take Action:

1. Sign the petition (http://tinyurl.com/nbneupo) asking for an immediate end to the wolf cull in Alberta (the Red Deer Advocate article http://tinyurl.com/pb6qht4 explains why this cull is so wrong, as does my blog entry from January titled ‘1000 Dead Wolves and Counting’ (http://tinyurl.com/lkfbocv) — here’s the official petition if you haven’t already signed it: http://tinyurl.com/nbneupo

2. Join Wolf Matters on Facebook and stay abreast of what’s going on with wolf management in Alberta. They also have a website at www.wolfmatters.org This is a fledgling organization that I have become a part of, so please consider supporting them in any way you can.

3. Email the premier of Alberta, Jim Prentice, and the Minister of the Environment, Kyle Fawcett, and let them know you are against the wolf cull and strongly against the use of snaring and strychnine poisoning to kill wolves (again, read that article above if you want some grisly visions in your head before writing your email) — they can be emailed at premier@gov.ab.ca (Prentice) and calgary.klein@assembly.ab.ca (Fawcett).
 
Please let me know what you think of all of this in the Comments below and please consider ‘Sharing’ this link on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to expand its reach. Thank you everyone for helping get the word out.

John

Alberta’s Coyote Killing Contests

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WARNING: Extremely graphic images included below.

After my recent posts about British Columbia and Alberta basically having an open season on wolves these days, perhaps it comes as no surprise to anyone that Alberta is playing host to a number of legal coyote-killing contests this winter.

Kodiak Lake Hunting & Fishing’s 10th Annual Furbuster Coyote Derby in Barrhead is this weekend

Alberta Beach, Grande Prairie, Leslieville, and Barrhead are all communities within Alberta taking part in these barbaric contests — Grande Prairie just hosted the “3rd Annual Whack ‘Em ‘N Stack ‘Em Coyote Derby” last weekend (if the name of this contest doesn’t sum up the collective mentality of these contests and their participants, then I don’t know what will!), while Barrhead is hosting their 10th Annual Furbuster Coyote Derby this coming weekend on February 7th, 2015.

The Grande Prairie coyote-killing contest ran last weekend

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi was talking about gay and lesbian issues when he was recently quoted nationally and internationally as saying that he was fearful Albertans were going to be portrayed as “hillbillies,” and one can’t help but think that his words couldn’t possibly be any more applicable than they are to these wildlife killing contests across the province, in which the sole aim of the contest is have a bunch of rednecks get together and gun down wildlife like coyotes and red foxes so that they can stack them up and take a bunch of pictures afterwards.

Last year’s Furbusters ‘harvest’ — http://www.kodiaklake.com/photos/coyote-derby-photos

To date the Alberta government has been decidedly silent on the topic despite a rash of negative publicity that Coyote Watch Canada was able to drum up surrounding the Alberta Beach coyote-killing contest near Edmonton three weeks ago (“Coyote Kill Contest in Alberta Provokes Environmentalists’ Anger” and “Hunters, Conservationists Square Off Over Coyote Hunt”).

“Hillbillies” indeed. Wolves, coyotes and foxes killed in the 2012 Furbusters Derby

So let’s break this down and be very clear about what is going on in these contests: men, women, and children are going out onto public and private lands and are slaughtering our coyotes, foxes, and even wolves. They are doing this out of hatred for predators. And they are doing this because they love to kill. These contests have absolutely nothing to do with population control, livestock protection, pet protection, or game management, as many of these hunters would have you believe, and they most certainly have nothing to do with hunting to put food on the table. Which begs the question, why is the rest of the hunting community not coming down full-force on these unethical contests? Why are the same people who spend hours telling me how much hunters put into conservation and wildlife management not up-in-arms about these murdering contests? Much like last year’s Wolf Kill Contest in Fort Nelson, British Columbia, the hunting community by-and-large has disappeared from the scene, with very few hunters stepping forward to express their concern that our province still allows these contests and that this kind of hunting behaviour is still legal in Alberta.

So that leaves it up to you and me to do the dirty work and get these contests halted immediately.

See below for what you can do to help bring an immediate end to wildlife killing contests in Alberta

Here’s what you can do to help put an end to wildlife killing contests in Alberta:

Sign the online petition, we need to get to 10,000 signatures, so please share this far and wide in your social media networks: https://www.change.org/p/honourable-kyle-fawcett-ban-wildlife-killing-contests

Write an EMAIL to Premier Jim Prentice (addresses and sample email below):
CC Coyote Watch Canada, as well as the Minister of Culture & Tourism, the Honourable Maureen Kubinec, the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, the Honourable Kyle Fawcett, the Wildlife Manager at Alberta Sustainable Resources & Development, Matt Besko, and Alberta Public Affairs Officer Duncan MacDonnell.

To: Premier@gov.ab.ca
Cc: coyotewatchcanada@gmail.com, barrhead.morinville.westlock@assembly.ab.ca,
duncan.macdonnell@gov.ab.ca, esrd.minister@gov.ab.ca, Matt.Besko@gov.ab.ca

I’ve included excerpts from an email Calgary wildlife photographer Colleen Gara sent to Minister Fawcett on January 10th in response to the Alberta Beach coyote-killing contest. Please feel free to use similar wording for your own emails to the Premier (and thank you to Colleen for providing permission to reprint portions of this email):

————————————————————————————————————————-

Dear Minister Kyle Fawcett,

I am writing to express my concerns over the DKD Coyote Tournament that occurred today, January 10, 2015 in Alberta Beach, Alberta. I do not believe that this event should be allowed in our Province. I believe that all contests or other similar tournaments which offer prizes or other inducements for the taking of mammals (such as coyotes), and other animals, for an individual contest or tournament should NOT be allowed. This practice is archaic, unethical and not in line with modern day views on wildlife conservation.

The offering of cash prizes in a contest setting is distasteful and unethical. It has also been shown that random, indiscriminate killing of animals such as coyotes (and wolves) alters pack behaviours and does not lead to a reduction of problem animals (which is what the contest organizer states to be one of the main reasons for holding the contest). In fact, evidence has shown that populations increase as a result of indiscriminate killing.

I note that California’s Fish and Game Commission passed a decision on this same issue this past December. The Commission found that “permitting inducements for the unlimited take of furbearers and non-game mammals was unsportsmanlike”. As a consequence of this finding, they are amending their regulations to prohibit such contests. They believe that by limiting this practice, it promotes respect for California’s environment and provides for “conservation, maintenance and utilization of the living resources of the state’s wildlife for the benefit of all of the citizens of the state.” This is a very important statement: Such contests are directed at a minority of the population. I believe that a far greater number of people in our Province believe in conservation and wildlife sustainability and would support the banning of such contests offering inducements such as cash prizes. These contests are archaic and the goal is not proper conservation and wildlife management. The prizes, such as those offered at the DKD Tournament, are offered for random reasons: the greatest number of coyotes killed and also for the smallest, largest and mangiest coyote brought in (http://coyotecontest.com/contest/4th-annual-dkd-coyote-tournament). It’s reprehensible! In the Commission’s decision, it was stated that “the introduction of prizes changes hunting behaviour by inducing competition beyond that which would normally occur” and I agree with this statement.

In several articles I have read on this subject, the Government of Alberta consistently states that they do not condone these contests and don’t support them. In an article by CTV in April 2010 (http://calgary.ctvnews.ca/41-coyote-carcasses-discovered-in-southern-alberta-1.505298) a number of coyote carcasses were found in Southern Alberta that were likely the result of a bounty being offered by the Government of Saskatchewan at the time. When questioned about this activity, the Alberta Government stated that “…although it’s legal to kill coyotes for a cross-province bounty, the Alberta government doesn’t support it.” When questioned about this month’s DKD Tournament, Duncan MacDonnell, a public affairs officer with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, said the coyote shoot is legal as long as participants have a licence and obey hunting regulations. He was quoted as saying: “We don’t endorse or condone these hunts, but also realize they are not illegal…but I’d hate for people to think this is a government policy. We are not involved…From our perspective, every animal has a place, and coyotes are part of the natural ecological balance.”

But I argue that the Government is involved. By remaining silent in the Province’s hunting regulations and environmental policies, the Government is being complicit in this mass killing. You are essentially condoning these types of contests and the indiscriminate killing of wildlife. This practice continues to occur year after year

and I think that it’s time that the Government of Alberta stand up against these practices and calls them what they are – unethical and contrary to conservation practices. Follow California’s lead and be a leader in this country in this important area!

The Wildlife Act allows the Minister to establish regulations relating to licenses and permits and to hunting in the Province in general. The Minister may specify activities authorized by or under such licenses. Therefore an amendment banning such contests can be enacted by the Minister. I would suggest that our hunting regulations be amended to disallow the practice of allowing these types of contests, similar to what has been done in the State of California.

On a side note, I also note that the regulations allow for the pelts of these animals (shot on private land) to not be recovered. Therefore, under the current legislation, a contest such as the DKD Coyote Tournament could allow for the killing of an unlimited number of coyotes and their pelts could all be wasted. There is no requirement for them to donate the pelts. I realize that the organizer of the DKD Tournament says that they will be donating the pelts, but they don’t have to and who will be confirming that this was in fact done? It’s wasteful on so many levels.

I believe this practice should be banned in order to provide Alberta’s citizens with the enjoyment of its natural resources. The Government should be respecting ethical hunting and proper conservation.

I would very much like to hear what the Government’s views are in light of what I’ve outlined above.

Thank you,

Colleen Gara
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Thank you everyone for helping put an end to wildlife killing contests in Alberta.

John

‘Beautiful’ BC to Gun Down 180 Wolves

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Hired snipers. Deftly-skilled pilots. And dead wolves. Lots of dead wolves. 180 of them by the time the snow melts in British Columbia in two select areas, the South Peace and the South Selkirks. And the best part? You’re paying for it.

That’s right, every single one of us tree huggers, conservationists, outdoor enthusiasts, hunters, tourists, businesspeople, government employees, and general citizens are paying for the British Columbia government to gun down wolves in these two regions in a misguided attempt to save five different small herds of woodland caribou that are on the brink of extirpation (one in the South Selkirks in the southeast part of the province and four in the South Peace in the north).

Will we allow BC to follow Alberta’s lead and waste millions of taxpayer dollars killing wolves?

You would think British Columbia would have gotten on the phone with neighbouring Alberta (they are talking, right? “Hey Christy, it’s Jim, so about those pipelines…”) and asked how Alberta’s own lengthy wolf cull has been going.

In case you missed it on yesterday’s blog, Alberta has killed more than 1,000 wolves since 2005 using a variety of super humane methods (take your pick from strangling to death in a trapper’s snare, getting poisoned with strychnine, or being gunned down from a demon machine chasing you through the snow from above) in efforts to save the Little Smoky caribou herd in the west central part of the province. How successful has it been? To date they’ve spent millions of dollars (I’m guessing at this, as I believe ten years of hired guns and helicopters isn’t cheap), killed a thousand wolves, and seen the Little Smoky caribou herd’s population increase by almost…pardon me, what?! They haven’t increased at all in that whole time?!

The facts surrounding the Alberta wolf cull in the past decade are sobering. The Canadian Journal of Zoology reported in November 2014 that Alberta’s wolf cull failed to achieve any improvement in Boreal Woodland Caribou adult female survival, or any improvement in calf survival, and as such had no effect on population dynamics. In other words, they’re wasting money killing wolves with no scientific basis for doing so.

The South Peace caribou face local extirpation without a tough new caribou recovery plan

And British Columbia is now following suit. They have already begun killing wolves in the South Selkirks, where 24 wolves are targeted this winter in an effort to save a remnant herd of just 18 caribou. Another 120-160 wolves will be shot in the South Peace region to bolster four small herds of declining caribou there.

But as I pointed out in yesterday’s blog, scapegoating wolves for the decline in caribou numbers isn’t based in scientific reality. Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) National Executive Director Eric Hebert-Daly told the Canadian Press that “despite scientific information about the negative impact of industrial activity on caribou and the importance of planning for conservation before approving new developments, on the ground it appears to be largely business as usual [in British Columbia].”

CPAWS went on to reiterate exactly what I wrote about yesterday in relation to Alberta’s wolf cull and farcical caribou recovery ‘plan’:

“In many instances where ranges are already highly disturbed, the primary cause for caribou mortality is wolf predation. But it is important to note that the increased predation is the outcome of habitat fragmentation, degradation and roads. After an area is logged, new growth attracts other ungulates such as moose and deer, which attract more wolves that indiscriminately prey upon caribou. … In some instances, caribou populations will be extirpated if predation continues unabated. But the killing of wolves in the absence of meaningful habitat protection and restoration is not a viable solution, and may further disrupt the natural balance of functioning ecosystems.”

Killing wolves to save caribou doesn’t work. Just ask Alberta.

Until British Columbia puts together a true caribou recovery plan for the South Selkirk, the South Peace, and other critical woodland caribou habitat in British Columbia, then this entire exercise in killing wolves is a moot point and a waste of money and time, not to mention ridiculously unethical — how humane is it to chase wolves from a helicopter? I don’t care how skilled those rented shooters are, there is no chance they kill instantly with every shot.

So what do I mean by a true caribou recovery plan? A few signs restricting snowmobile access into core areas? No logging in the final few drainages that are still intact in the South Selkirks? Sure, that’s a miniscule start that’s already in place, but a real plan will have gnarly, sharp teeth that will bite into every piece of habitat degradation that has gone on over the past century in both regions: immediately halting most logging, mining, and oil and gas activity in current and former caribou range, deactivating roads and atv trails and shutting down all recreational access, and immediately starting the process of restoring the habitat to suit caribou recovery for the long-term. Until that happens, until there is a real plan in place that is armed like those heli gunners, then anything the British Columbia government says or does is just lip service pretending that they care about saving caribou.

If British Columbia is allowed to continue down this path of murdering wolves from the air with no scientific evidence to support the cull, they will end up killing hundreds of wolves, year after year, just like Alberta has. And like in Alberta, the killing will make no difference to caribou recovery efforts. The only way to make a true difference in caribou recovery is to make the hard decisions that protect and restore the habitat. Until that happens, with or without a wolf cull, we will see a continued erosion of the habitat, zero short-term progress in caribou recovery, and, eventually, the extirpation of caribou entirely from the South Selkirks, the South Peace, and the rest of British Columbia.

So what can YOU do to help?

This time it’s even easier to get on board and help than it was with the Alberta campaign.

Want to donate to help in the fight? Visit Pacific Wild’s indiegogo fundraising campaign and consider putting some money into this (there are some amazing gifts to be given away to donators). They just launched the fundraiser this morning and are already almost at $10,000.

Want to sign a petition? Join the more than 90,000 people worldwide that have signed this week at https://www.change.org/p/save-b-c-wolves

Want to write a letter or email to government?  Pacific Wild has written a draft letter that you can use or modify and set it up so you can send it directly to the British Columbia government at http://www.pacificwild.org/site/take_action/wolf-action.html (halfway down the page, watch for the blue link ‘Write a Letter/Send an Email’).

Thank you for all of the support everyone, please share this link far and wide and help us get the word out.

John

1,000 Dead Wolves and Counting…

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There it is on the Travel Alberta website: “Welcome to Alberta, home of the largest wolf cull in Canada, where the tax dollars our government gleans from your tourist visits pays for our hired guns to blast wild wolves from the sky, all in the name of psuedo-science.

Oh, I’m sorry, apparently that’s not exactly what the Alberta tourism website says. After closer examination, the “Welcome to Alberta” part is correct, but the real wording goes on to gush about how “Alberta is an exceptional vacation destination you won’t soon forget, filled with unique activities, urban charms and cultural jewels.” I wonder if those “unique activites” include the killing of over 1,000 wolves in the Little Smoky caribou range since 2005? Trapping, hunting, poisoning (who the F**K still allows poisoning in the 21st century?!!! YAYYYY, Alberta does!!), and once again this winter, aerial gunning, all paid for by me, you, and every single tourist that has ever stepped foot into this gorgeous province.

It’s like we’re stuck in 1970, killing wolves with poison and aerial gunning

So why are they killing wolves as fast and furiously as they can in the Little Smoky? All in the name of ‘science’, in order to protect one of the most critically endangered boreal caribou herds in the country.

The Little Smoky, a 2500-square kilometer area just north of Hinton, Alberta, is home to between 60 and 80 boreal woodland caribou, comprising the southernmost herd of boreal caribou in the province. Like most of their counterparts across BC and Alberta, the Little Smoky herd has seen a precipitous decline in their numbers over the past few decades, due to a striking increase in industrial development including roads, seismic lines, pipelines, cut blocks, and well sites, which in turn has led to higher mortality from wolves.

So how are the two connected? How has the mass-scale industrial expansion in the Little Smoky range led to an increase in caribou killed by wolves in the area? The increase in predator access and predator efficiency in industrially-developed caribou range can be traced to two key factors: first, the roads and seismic lines and similar linear features needed for oil & gas exploration, well site construction, and logging, make it easier for wolves to get into caribou range and increase their ability to hunt effectively (it’s a lot easier walking on a plowed road than it is trudging through a meter of snow). Second, the removal of old-growth forest in the Little Smoky has caused a change in the prey-base of the area; the new growth in the cut-blocks has resulted in an increase in prey species like deer, elk, and moose, which in turn has led to more wolves coming in to the area. Combine those two factors and you have wolves suddenly living close to caribou with plowed roads and right-of-ways making their access to the area easy. Two hundred years ago the caribou survived by simply being in areas where there weren’t many wolves, but now in the Little Smoky and across much of the woodland caribou’s range in Alberta and BC, industrial development has changed the game. And caribou are losing.

Woodland caribou in the Little Smoky are perilously close to disappearing altogether, with just 60-80 remaining

Just how heavily developed is the Little Smoky? The Federal Government’s recent recovery strategy for boreal caribou noted that just 5% of intact habitat still remains in the Little Smoky range.

Back in 2001 and 2004, researchers sounded the alarm for the Little Smoky herd, calling it a “population in imminent danger of extirpation” due to industrial development with “high levels of human disturbance resulting from forestry and oil and gas activity.” Not surprisingly, the Alberta government continued to give out development permits to both industries despite these initial warning calls.

In the winter of 2005-06, the Alberta government initiated its first aerial wolf control program in the Little Smoky, despite once again continuing to hand out development permits for new well sites, new cut blocks, new seismic lines, and new roads.

At this point in 2015, the Alberta government has now funded the death of over 1,000 wolves since 2005 in an attempt to save the Little Smoky caribou herd. What they have not done is limit the all-encompassing industrial development in the region. Instead, they have stuck a very expensive band-aid (how much do you think it costs to send hired guns into the air in helicopters and kill 100 wolves a year?!) on a gushing wound and expected us all to turn a blind eye to the blood pouring from the edges of the bandage.

Killing wolves in the Little Smoky is nothing more than a smokescreen for much larger industrial development issues

The real issue, as I think everyone knows at this point, is that the Alberta provincial government has been ignoring conservation groups, scientists, and even federal calls for a caribou recovery strategy (they are already a year late with no plan in sight) and continues to this day to allow new development in the Little Smoky. We’re now at a point where we may be up to thirty years away from being able to effect a habitat change that would truly benefit caribou enough to see a population increase (provided of course we kill every single wolf in the region until then).

Worst of all in this issue is that the provincial government in Alberta is using wolves as their scapegoats for a human-caused problem, killing wolves and their families en-masse on my dime and on your dime, using taxpayer and tourist dollars.

The bottom line here is that not only is the current wolf cull in the Little Smoky unethical (poisoning and aerial gunning, really?!), but it’s also unscientific. Researchers from Alberta’s own University of Alberta agree:
 
“The underlying issue is one of habitat loss which affects caribou… Wolf-control programs…do not provide a long-term solution to counter caribou declines. Studies in Alaska, the Yukon, and northern British Colombia have shown that this method resulted in only short-term increases in ungulate populations because wolf populations increased shortly after culling was ceased (e.g. Boertje et al. 1996, NRC 1997, Bergerud and Elliot 1998, Hayes et al. 2003). The management strategies currently in place have the potential to increase caribou survival if applied continuously but they do not address the main issue of habitat loss, habit degradation, and habitat fragmentation.”

The most up-to-date research is showing that the wolf cull “has barely managed” to keep the Little Smoky caribou herd stable, despite the deaths of a thousand wolves at an untold financial cost to taxpayers (though I would venture that it must be in the millions of dollars at this stage). CBC News reported that many of the province’s top caribou scientists found that the wolf cull has allowed the Little Smoky herd to hang on, but that the habitat is indeed more than 30 years away from being restored and that restoration in many parts of the Little Smoky has not even begun. In fact, industry’s footprint has continued to grow in the area, even in recent years, and industrial leases continue to be handed out throughout other endangered caribou ranges in Alberta.

Caribou aren’t going to survive in Alberta without a sharp-toothed long-range recovery plan

Originally when I first entered this debate, I felt that until the provincial government comes up with a legitimate plan to save the boreal caribou herds like the Little Smoky, then we should be fighting this inhumane wolf cull tooth-and-nail. And I definitely still feel that way, however, there’s a problem with focusing solely on shutting down the wolf cull.

If we fight vigourously to get the cull shut down, wolves and other factors will almost certainly very quickly wipe out the remainder of the Little Smoky herd. Oil and gas and forestry will have their way, the caribou will be gone, and industry will continue to run rough-shod over the Little Smoky and the remaining viable caribou ranges in the province. Are we willing to let that happen?

I can say one thing for certain, I’m not willing to sit around and do nothing while I watch the Alberta government continue to plunder away our money while murdering wolves as a stop-gap measure allowing the Little Smoky herd to ‘exist’ on the fringes of extirpation.

What I believe we need to call for is a comprehensive plan moving forward that not only immediately stops killing wolves in caribou recovery areas, but immediately enacts long-range plans for habitat mitigation measures that are tougher than anything industry has ever seen on this continent. The Premier of Alberta claims we need to be environmental leaders or risk being left behind, so let’s show them how it’s done, Mr. Prentice. No more logging in caribou habitat, no more roads, no more recreational access, no more oil and gas development. Deactivate and remove many existing roads, and well sites. Limit all recreational access, no atvs, no snowmobiles, no skiing.

Are we willing to take these seemingly drastic steps? If we are, then we can also begin a large-scale captive rearing program that will reintroduce caribou back in to the Little Smoky range 30 years from now when the habitat has been restored, and in the meantime we can all sleep well at night knowing that we didn’t bear witness to the slaughter of thousands of wolves as a stop-gap measure that never did work. There is no point in killing wolves now to let these caribou in the Little Smoky survive when they have no future there right at this moment in time.

A long-range caribou recovery plan would stop scapegoating wolves and provide a win-win-win in the big picture

We may pay a price in the short-term financially, but if we enact a tough new plan that recovers that habitat, the environmental benefits will be through the roof. A long-term caribou recovery plan with sharp, biting teeth will ensure that other herds in Alberta that aren’t yet facing the same dire circumstances as the Little Smoky herd can not only survive, but quickly thrive in their newly protected habitat; safe from human disturbance, and by default, safe from wolves (without the roads and logging, there simply won’t be many wolves in these areas). As these caribou populations stabilize and eventually start to grow, we can put our caribou rearing program into place and slowly start to reintroduce caribou back in to the Little Smoky and any other restored areas that they had disappeared from.

It’s a win-win-win…caribou win big and survive in the province. Wolves win and are no longer persecuted unfairly as a scapegoat in a fight they didn’t start. And best of all, Alberta and the rest of the world wins BIG. If we can convince the government that this is the plan we need, then we will truly be the environmental leaders that our premier hopes we can be.

So what can you do to help?

Sign the petition:
https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Jim_Prentice_Premier_of_Alberta_Immediately_halt_all_lethal_wolf_control_in_Alberta/

And better yet, write to or email the Premier of Alberta, call his office, or send him a message on Facebook or Twitter, and let him know that you want the wolf cull stopped and a long-range caribou recovery plan implemented immediately. Feel free to tell him that you’ll stop visiting Alberta and spending your money here if you feel strongly enough and are from out-of-province. If you’re from Alberta, tell him how it makes you feel knowing that your taxpayer money is killing wolves while stalling on delivering a real strategy for caribou recovery. Send him this blog link and see if he responds. And tell him that you truly hope he does turn Alberta into environmental leaders in the world with a decision moving forward that will reap benefits for all of us.

Premier Jim Prentice
307 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5K 2B6
Phone: (780) 427-2251
Email: calgary.foothills@assembly.ab.ca or Email Form
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Prentice.Jim
Twitter: @JimPrentice

Be sure to include the Minister of Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation and the Minister of Alberta Enviroment and Sustainable Resource Development on your correspondence if you email or write a letter to the Premier.

Honourable Maureen Kubinec
Minister of Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation
229 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5K 2B6
Phone: (780) 422-3559
barrhead.morinville.westlock@assembly.ab.ca
Twitter: @MKubinec

Honourable Kyle Fawcett
Minister of Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
420 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5K 2B6
Phone: (780) 427-2391
calgary.klein@assembly.ab.ca
Twitter: @KyleMLA

Want to do something more simple than writing an email or letter? Then go put a few Comments down on the AESRD’s government web page about the wolf slaughter/cull, where they actually try to justify using poisoned baits, snares, and hired gunners: https://aesrd.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/wolf-population-management-protecting-little-smoky-caribou/ 

And of course, the more Comments we get below, the more ammunition we have to present to the Government of Alberta, so please feel free to voice your opinions below.

Stay tuned tomorrow for an in-depth look at British Columbia’s equally disheartening wolf culls that were recently announced by the BC Government, including some solid action you can take to help in that fight. If you want to get started early, go sign the petition started by Pacific Wild at https://www.change.org/p/save-b-c-wolves

The Fight to Save Big Momma

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Her name is Big Momma, and she is a photo tour superstar. Each fall in the Chilcotin, when my clients and I arrive to photograph grizzly bears eating salmon, Big Momma gets some of the biggest gasps and stares — and for good reason, for she is gentle, she is beautiful, and she is big. Very big.

The gorgeous grizzly bear we call Big Momma — gentle, beautiful, and big.

In fact, Big Momma is so big that next spring, if the British Columbia government has its way, for the first time in her life, she will be at risk of being gunned down by legal bear hunters looking for the ultimate trophy as she emerges from hibernation and wanders her way down into the valley bottoms to graze on fresh vegetation.  After all, what self-respecting trophy hunter could resist the temptation to fire at a 700 lb. (320 kg) bear sporting a lush winter coat that would make a perfect rug? 

It is as ridiculous as it sounds: a gorgeous female grizzly that produces wonderfully well-behaved cubs every three years will be at risk of being shot next spring so that some loser with a giant truck and a tiny penis can brag about how he slayed a giant with his life hanging in the balance (in other words, he’ll lie — the truth is, he’ll shoot a big speck on a distant horizon with his high-powered rifle and then somehow claim that it makes him a better man).

Now I’m not here to argue that these grizzly hunters do need to strive to be better men; I suspect that that’s as clear as day to most you that have come to this blog to read about the fight to save Big Momma’s life.  What I am here to get very, very angry about is the proposal by the dimwits in charge of mis-managing British Columbia’s wildlife resources to re-open the grizzly bear hunt in the West Chilcotin this spring after it’s been closed for the past thirteen years.

[Steaming mad, yet?  Go ‘Register’ before December 20th (this Friday) at http://a100.gov.bc.ca/pub/ahte/hunting/re-open-grizzly-bear-leh-hunts-mus-5-05-and-5-06 and leave your comments regarding why you are against this proposal to re-open the grizzly bear hunt in the West Chilcotin.  And keep reading if you want more ammunition to debate this proposal with….]

Want to know what happens in thirteen years without grizzly bear hunting and with a clamp-down on illegal grizzly killing by ranchers and poachers?  Strangely enough, wild grizzly bears start to show up on salmon streams and in distant fields, no longer afraid of being shot on sight. Bears like Big Momma start to show their faces in the day-time and shepherd their cubs along the banks of rivers and creeks where once they didn’t dare go in the past for fear of being hunted.

And soon enough, ecotourism operations begin to sprout up, with tourists from around the world showing up to spend their hard-earned money to see and photograph wild grizzly bears in their natural habitat. In fact, bear viewing in B.C. provides as clear a financial argument as one could desire when it comes to putting an immediate end to the proposal to re-open the grizzly bear hunt in the West Chilcotin (or to even have a hunt at all).  Last year, one grizzly bear viewing operation (Knight Inlet Lodge on the west coast) in B.C. brought in more money than all of the grizzly bear hunting outfitters in the entire province combined.  One versus all, and one crushed all.

Want a financial argument just for the West Chilcotin?  Last year, my photo tours there brought in over $45,000 in direct revenue to the lodge I work with.  That was half of the grizzly bear viewing business they did last fall.  And they are one of just five bear viewing operations in the West Chilcotin last year.  Extrapolate my figures and it’s not hard to see that bear viewing in the West Chilcotin is already worth up to $450,000 in direct revenue each and every year.  Couple that with the indirect revenue that gets spread throughout the Chilcotin, from the gas station at Anahim Lake to Safeway at Williams Lake to the charter planes flying out of Vancouver, and the direct and indirect financial impact of these five tiny bear viewing operations in the West Chilcotin is likely in excess of $1,000,000.

They are staggering numbers, particularly when compared to how much it would cost a resident of British Columbia to go hunt a grizzly bear in the West Chilcotin next spring: $32 gets you a hunting license, and another $80 gets you a grizzly bear tag (all grizzly bear hunting in BC is via Limited Entry Hunting).  So if you win the LEH lottery and get a tag, it costs you a whopping $112 in provincial licenses to go shoot Big Momma.  $112….

Big Momma in 2010 — grizzly bear viewing revenues dwarf grizzly bear hunting revenues in B.C.

[The same officials that have proposed the re-opening of the grizzly bear hunt in the West Chilcotin have also proposed re-opening the hunt in two different parts of the Southern Rockies in the Kootenay region, please go ‘Register’ before December 20th (this Friday) at http://a100.gov.bc.ca/pub/ahte/hunting/re-open-grizzly-bear-leh-hunts-mus-4-20-and-4-23 and also leave your separate comments there regarding why you are against this proposal, too.  Keep reading if you want more facts to use in your arguments against both proposals.]

At this point, many of you may be wondering about the loud cries you often hear from the hunting community about how their licenses and fees go directly into conservation and into supporting wildlife management in British Columbia.  Their argument is that without hunting licenses and the money generated from them, we’d have no wildlife management and little conservation in the province.  So let’s break that down quickly, because surely that has some merit, right?

Nope, not really.  What it boils down to is this: the government chooses to take the money from hunting licenses and invest that back into wildlife management instead of into health care and road building.  They take the much larger amount of revenue generated from tourism and tourism components like bear viewing and pump that into the general coffers into things like health care and road building.  But if they wanted to, they could put it into wildlife management instead and the argument that the hunting community fosters the province’s wildlife conservation projects would be dead before it started.

That’s not to say that the hunting industry doesn’t play a role in conservation, because it often does. However, the larger truth is that wildlife management in British Columbia is geared almost entirely towards ‘management for hunting’, not towards actual conservation management.  And most hunting lobbies simply lobby to ensure they get more hunting opportunities.  Their lobbying often has little to do with conservation, as is clearly evidenced when one looks at the parks set aside in British Columbia: for the most part, the hunting industry had nothing to do with protecting any of the national park lands or the majority of the provincial park lands, and it definitely had nothing to do with preserving Canada’s only grizzly bear bear sanctuary, the Khutzeymateen (in fact, in some of these cases, the hunting community lobbied strongly against protecting these areas).

So back to the issue at hand, why on earth is the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations proposing to re-open the grizzly bear hunt in the West Chilcotin after thirteen years of no grizzly hunting?  It’s not a financial decision, so it must be a biological decision, right?  Maybe the bears are overpopulated, maybe they need thinning out?

Nope, not that either.  Though that’s what you’d be led to believe if you read the government website with the proposal on it:

These two management units are part of the Klinaklini-Homathko Grizzly Bear population Unit (GBPU); This GBPU is classified as viable. The LEH in these MU’s was closed in 2000 due to a combination of hunter kills and conflict bear kills along the northern and eastern fringe of the MUs where ranching and other human development is more widespread. As a result the mortality exceeded the Annual Allowable Harvest (AAH).  A new population estimate has been developed (184 grizzly bears) and the Annual Allowable Mortality has been set at approximately 4% or 7.4 bears per year. After removing 1% for unreported and problem bears there are approximately 5 bears per year for hunter allocation.

Anecdotal information from various stakeholders suggests that the grizzly bear population has increased which corresponds with the recently updated population estimates. . DFO personnel who work [in the area] have also observed substantial increases in bear sightings and encounters over [the] last 10-15 years.

So lemme get this straight…you’re telling me that after grizzly bear hunting stopped, the DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) started seeing more bears on the rivers?  No SH*T!  Absolutely incredible information, truly ground-breaking stuff from the geniuses in charge of our wildlife management in B.C. [yes, that is sarcasm you can see dripping off of your screens].  And you’re telling me that your various stakeholders (read: ranchers, hunters, guide-outfitters, trappers) are telling you that they, too, are seeing more bears?  Wow! No personal stake in that one, is there?

I think we all stopped believing most ranchers crying wolf long ago (Vancouver Sun article, October 1, 2012) and I’m pretty sure that we’re not going to believe grizzly hunters, either.  So I decided to go straight to the source and ask Cedar Mueller, the grizzly bear researcher that knows more about the West Chilcotin grizzlies than anyone else on earth.  I wanted to know if the population estimate was accurate (nope), how it was determined (by manipulating her study data), and if she felt grizzly bears were stable enough in the region to hunt (putting aside the ethics of grizzly bear hunting for a second and speaking strictly from a biological standpoint, she unequivocally said NO).

Big Momma in 2012 without cubs — why should this gentle bear be exposed to hunting?

Mueller forwarded me her draft Final Report for her study, which referred repeatedly to just how critically important this small population was to an enormous area around it in terms of grizzly bear population stability.  She found that grizzly bears were coming from as far as 115 kilometers away to get to the salmon spawning streams and rivers in the West Chilcotin and that many of these bears were from sub-populations that are severely threatened — in fact, if you look at a map, the entire eastern edge of the area they are proposing to re-open to grizzly bear hunting is either considered to be a Threatened GBPU (grizzly bear population unit) or has had grizzly bears extirpated altogether.

Even if Mueller’s report concluded that there were 184 individuals in the West Chilcotin (which it doesn’t — it only attempts to determine populations in grizzly bear migration areas at certain times of the year, like the number of grizzlies using a particular stream or river during spawning season), the fact that this grizzly bear population unit is bordered by threatened and non-existent grizzly bear populations on its eastern side should be reason enough not to fool around with bear numbers via a  bear hunt.  So the fact that Mueller believes the catchment area for the fall grizzlies congregating to feed on salmon is actually in the neighbourhood of 41,000 square kilometers (FOUR times the size of Banff, Jasper, Yoho, and Kootenay national parks combined!) makes the number 184 look measly at best — consider that the Banff-Jasper contiguous national park area has between 200-250 wild grizzly bears in a quarter the space, yet that population is considered to be threatened.  So how is the B.C. government determining that this small population of bears in the West Chilcotin is now viable enough to have bears hunted from it?

The sad truth is that this is a political play from ranchers, hunters, trappers, and guide-outfitters putting pressure on the Ministry to re-open the hunt despite a lack of financial, ethical, or biological reasoning.  So what I need each of you to do is to make your voice heard on behalf of Big Momma and the rest of the West Chilcotin bears and Register and submit Comments at http://a100.gov.bc.ca/pub/ahte/hunting/re-open-grizzly-bear-leh-hunts-mus-5-05-and-5-06 by this Friday, December 20th.

The government has purposefully made it as difficult as possible to voice your opposition to this, so please also contact the Minister of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations, the Honourable Steve Thomson, at FLNR.Minister@gov.bc.ca or on Twitter at @Steve4Kelowna or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Steve4Kelowna and let him know your feelings on this issue.

Thank you to you all for your help with this.  With any luck, next spring will be just like the past thirteen springs for Big Momma and the rest of the West Chilcotin grizzly bears.