Grizzly bear hunting is a divisive topic in B.C., but human conflicts and habitat loss are bigger risks. (Black Press files)

Grizzly bear trophy hunting over in B.C.

NDP government says 2017 hunt was the last one

B.C. Forests Minister Doug Donaldson has confirmed the NDP government has ended the trophy hunting of grizzly bears.

The fall grizzly hunting season ended Nov. 30, with new rules taking effect that allow hunters to take bear meat but not the head, paws or hide of bears that are prized as trophies. Donald said Monday the scheduled spring 2018 hunt for grizzly bears is cancelled.

Donaldson said all grizzly hunting has ended, except for Indigenous hunting for food, social and ceremonial purposes. By agreement with local Indigenous communities, all grizzly bear hunting has been stopped in the remote Central and North Coast region known as the Great Bear Rainforest.

It is no longer possible for resident or non-resident hunters to apply for a permit to hunt a grizzly for food, but provincial staff estimate that fewer than 100 hunters a year have been interested in that.

After the trophy hunt ban was announced in August, more than 4,000 people responded to the government’s invitation to comment, and 78 per cent of respondents supported the end of all grizzly hunting, Donaldson said.

The forests ministry estimates that about 250 of B.C.’s 1,500 grizzly bears were taken by hunters each year, in a limited-entry lottery hunt open to resident and non-resident hunters.

An October 2017 report on the hunt by B.C. Auditor General Carole Bellringer found that hunting is not the biggest threat to bears.

The greatest risk to B.C.’s grizzly bear population is not hunting but degradation of habitat from forestry, oil and gas development and human settlement, Bellringer concluded. The audit also found that from 2006 to 2015, there were 389 bears killed as a result of human-bear conflicts.

Environment Minister George Heyman said the government is moving ahead with improved grizzly bear inventory measures, and the NDP government’s first budget in February is expected to deal with his “understaffed” ministry to step up enforcement of the ban on trophy hunting.

In 2016, wildlife biologists from the University of Alberta and the University of Minnesota gave the B.C. government a passing mark for management of its grizzly hunt, making 51 recommendations for improving habitat protection and population estimates.

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