Editorial: Trophy-hunting ban falls short

Ticking another item off its to-do list, the B.C. NDP government has banned trophy hunting for grizzly bears. But it didn’t ban hunting for meat, which will leave conservation officers with a tricky enforcement problem.

The province announced that trophy hunting for grizzlies throughout B.C. and all hunting of grizzlies in the Great Bear Rainforest will stop when this year’s hunting season ends on Nov. 30.

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“People in the province have come to their understanding, their point of view, that trophy hunting of grizzly bears is not a socially acceptable practice in B.C. in 2017,” said Natural Resources Minister Doug Donaldson.

This year’s hunt will go ahead because the permits were issued in June, before the NDP took office.

Donaldson didn’t know how many bears would be saved by the ban on trophy hunting, but the government says there are about 15,000 grizzlies in B.C., and hunters kill about 250 every year.

The new policy tries to meet the desires of both environmentalists and hunters, but doesn’t really satisfy either.

Guide outfitters are likely to see a drop in business when the ban takes effect. Their association says 5,000 out-of-province hunters come here each year for hunting of all kinds, bringing in $350 million.

“We’re very worried about the ripple effect it will have on small businesses in rural British Columbia,” said executive director Scott Ellis.

The total ban in the Great Bear Rainforest pleases environmentalists, but allowing the food hunt still leaves an opening for hunters that they are not happy about.

B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver said: “What they’re trying to do is have their cake and eat it, too.”

Chris Genovali, executive director of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, pointed out that hunters would be required to give up the head, hide and paws to provincial wildlife authorities, to ensure no trophies are taken.

“That said, virtually no one legitimately hunts grizzlies for food,” he said. “Killing these bears is strictly a trophy hunt.”

That’s the tricky part. If you want meat for the freezer, a deer or a moose gives a much tastier bang for your bullet. Meat isn’t a reason to shoot a bear, it’s an excuse.

Just because a hunter hands over the bear’s head doesn’t mean he’s leaving the woods without a trophy. He has several megabytes of trophies on his digital camera, images of himself posing with the dead animal.

Wildlife officers will have a challenge proving it wasn’t a food hunt, unless the hunter leaves the uneaten bear as evidence. It would have been much cleaner and clearer for everyone if the government had either banned grizzly hunting entirely or left the hunt alone.

Donaldson said more discussions are planned to figure out how to wrap up the hunt and to put regulations in place for effective enforcement.

Regardless of how intensive the consultation is or how carefully the rules are written, both sides of the debate are left feeling shortchanged.

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