Quebec hunters prevented from harvesting Labrador caribou

by Derek Montague
Published on April 22, 2014

Hunters were going after threatened Mealy Mountains herd: source

A group of Innu hunters from the Quebec North Shore were recently prevented from illegally hunting the threatened Mealy Mountains caribou herd in Labrador, according to a source.

A Labrador woodland caribou is shown. Some herds are considered threatened, such as the Mealy Mountains herd. — Photo courtesy of the provincial wildlife division

The 10 or so hunters were headed to the Birchy Lakes area, about 150 kilometres away from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, when wildlife officers stopped them.

The incident happened earlier this month.

Considered threatened

According to a 2009 publication from the Department of Environment and Conservation, the Mealy Mountains herd was estimated at just 2,500 animals and considered threatened under the provincial Endangered Species Act and the federal Species at Risk Act.

Quebec hunters crossing the Labrador border to hunt caribou illegally is a problem that stretches back several years.

Back in 2007, two Quebec men from Pakua Shipi Innu were fined $18,000 each for killing caribou from the Mealy Mountains herd.

Serious problem

Former Labrador wildlife officer Hollis Yetman recalls how serious the problem was in the early 2000s, when caribou poaching near the Quebec-Labrador border was common.

“(The hunting) was significant. In 2003, there was endangered species legislation enacted and that was the catalyst for wildlife officers to have some strength and some backbone … that they could officially charge aboriginals for hunting these threatened caribou herds,” said Yetman.

Protected by wildlife officers

“If it wasn’t for a small, core group of wildlife officers that have had continuity protecting these herds for the past 10-15 years, I would say that the population would be far less than what they are now.”

Yetman is worried a few undetected hunts will be all that’s needed to decimate the Mealy Mountains herd and other woodland caribou.

“Basically, the Department of Justice keeps its eyes over these woodland caribou herds. Right now they’re doing a good job with their limited surveillance. (But) it only takes one or two undetected hunts by anyone and you will cause serious population problems with these herds,” said Yetman.

“The numbers are that sensitive.”

Yetman also feels that conservation efforts are also held up too much by the notion of aboriginal hunting rights.

“I think that the aboriginal right overshadows the need to protect these caribou a lot of the time,” said Yetman.

“The only thing keeping some of these caribou alive is the dedication of two or three of the wildlife officers who keep an eye on them.”

TC Media requested an interview with Justice Minister Darin King, but there was no response by press time, as government offices were closed Monday.

TC media was also been unsuccessful at reaching Pakua Shipi Chief Dennis Mestenapeo.

The Canadian government fantasy about the seal hunt is just not that widely shared

Canadian Blog

by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate

Born Free USA’s Canadian Representative

Barry is an artist, both with words and with paint. He has been associated with our organization for nearly three decades and is our go-to guy for any wildlife question. He knows his animals — especially birds — and the issues that affect them. His blogs will give you just the tip of his wildlife-knowledge iceberg, so be sure to stay and delve deeper into his Canadian Project articles. If you like wildlife and reading, Barry’s your man. (And we’re happy to have him as part of our team, too!)

Advice to Gail Shea and the Canadian Government: Here’s How to Impress the EU

The Canadian government fantasy is just not that widely shared

Published 04/18/14

You may wonder why I, a long time opponent of Canada’s east coast commercial seal hunt, would offer advice to those who fight people like me: the Canadian government. No fear. Anything not fitting the current Canadian government’s ideology is ignored, and yet I live in hope. Call it Canadian pride, or what is left of it, but I hate how we’re increasingly considered to be so backward and regressive on issues pertaining to the environment and animal welfare by so much of the rest of the world—including the European Union (EU), whose ban on the import of products from the east coast commercial seal hunt is opposed by Member of the Canadian Parliament, Gail Shea.

Recently, she was quoted as blaming the “the animal rights movement” for China’s apparent reticence to import products, claiming that we had “put a lot of pressure” on the Chinese. Think how that sounds in Europe or China. The so-called “animal rights movement,” whatever she thinks that may be, is supported by volunteered donations (not taxes), and has its hands full with multitudes of humanitarian and environmental concerns in China—from imports of endangered species through dwindling habitat for its own endangered fauna; to horrific zoo, fur, and livestock farm conditions; to a lack of laws providing animal protection; to the live skinning of dogs, cats, or other meat animals in street markets; to shark fin soup; to killer pollution that has caused birds to drop from the sky and marine life to go extinct; to there being virtually no local NGO (non-governmental organization) of its own dedicated to animal protection. And, compared to the resources available to the Government of Canada, what “pressure” do you think humanitarians have? Trade sanctions? Travel restrictions? Call in the ambassador? Mobilize military assets?

So, my first piece of advice to Shea and her colleagues: get real if you want the Europeans to take Canada seriously when it fights to lift the ban on products from the east coast commercial hunt. And to be fair, China is moving forward on environmental and animal protection issues, yes—but no western NGO influences China’s government policy.

Shea is fully in her right to claim that no “baby” seals are killed, but she should understand that, for it to be a truthful statement, a seal has to suddenly stop being a baby at about three weeks of age. But, redefining words does not change their meaning for the rest of the world.

The federal government (dominated by a party most Canadians did not vote for) has continually disgraced itself on many fronts, including the recently-announced (and ironically named) Fair Elections Act, which, if passed, will reduce the number of votes cast by citizens. (But, most foreigners don’t know about that sort of domestic issue.) However, because the issue is of global significance, they do know that former Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, referred to “environmental and other radical groups” as threatening “to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.” Oh, the irony, coming from a government that has systematically cut funding to research that demonstrates the risk of over-fishing or global climate change. I’ve been a Canadian longer than the Prime Minister and have never seen a more ideological government—and part of the ideology is to ignore facts or expert opinion. It’s no wonder that the Conference Board of Canada ranked our environmental record 15th out of 17 industrial countries, with, a year later, Simon Frazer University ranking us 24th out of 25 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development nations on environmental performance.

It is hard to reconcile the Canadian decision to contemptuously close, without a trace of consultation with the scientists affected, more than a dozen science libraries run by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Environment Canada, including the then-newly refurbished, century-old St. Andrews Biological Station in New Brunswick—literally throwing hundreds of thousands of documents, including unpublished material with irretrievable baseline data, into dumpsters!

Just recently, Shea has made moves to reduce protection of breeding habitat of various fish stocks, and to ignore utterly scientific advice in order to support west coast salmon farming that puts native stocks at serious risk. In fact, there is a long history of bad decisions by a succession of fisheries ministers for both parties that have formed governments, resulting in numerous losses of valued fish stocks (but nothing like the anti-environmental fanaticism we now see). With such contempt for science, is it any wonder that claims that the commercial seal hunt is supported by “science” are taken with more than a grain of salt in Europe? People can judge for themselves by viewing video online, to which the government has responded by tabling a bill that would prevent observers from getting close enough to sealers to film how they do it. That’s just so typical. Never have I seen such opacity, such secrecy, and such contempt for openness and accountability as is displayed by this government.

In addressing the World Trade Organization, Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment (who once asked us to celebrate the killing of a polar bear), was miffed that the EU imported seals from Greenland. That’s because it’s an aboriginal hunt… but so is the hunt for seals in northern Canada, and products from it are also not banned: a point Canada ignores, to the detriment of northern “subsistence” sealers’ interests. They have a monopoly. Subsistence, yes, but Europeans know that trade with them is a function of European colonization. The real irony is that the Canadian government has continually ignored warnings about climate change that so profoundly puts northern traditions at risk from melting permafrost and diminishing ice, including the sea ice so essential to seals and polar bears.

It is ironic, too, that—again ignoring any science that shows that gray seals are not proved to be a threat to commercial fisheries (and could help them in their role as apex predators)—Canada claims that they should be culled, and claims that no seal is wasted, when there is no market. Again, the Europeans are informed on such matters.

Canada loves to mention foie gras, bullfights, and fox hunting as examples of European traditions equal to the seal hunt in cruelty. But, to compassionate (and logical) Europeans, two wrongs don’t make a right, and the fact is that the EU is far ahead of Canada in trying to set standards for increasingly humane treatment of animals. As the recent trial of Maple Lodge, our largest chicken producer, shows, we have a very long way to go. Meanwhile, the humane movement also fights these “traditions,” success dependent on public support. The trajectory, in Europe and many other regions, is forward, toward ever more animal welfare. Not so, sadly, here in Canada.


Ontario spring bear hunt to face court challenge from animal rights groups

A black bear roams the forest A black bear roams the forest near Timmins, Ont., on Sunday, May 27, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Nathan Denette)

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press
Thursday, April 17, 2014

TORONTO — Two animal rights groups are taking the Ontario government to court in an attempt to stop a spring bear hunt pilot program before it begins, alleging it amounts to animal cruelty.

Animal Alliance of Canada and Zoocheck Canada say mother bears will be killed during the hunt, leaving their orphaned cubs to starve or be killed by predators.

“The babies at this time are very small,” said Julie Woodyer of Zoocheck Canada.

“This is the only large game species that are hunted when the young are still dependent on their mothers and it is inevitable that cubs will be orphaned.”

The animal rights groups have filed an application for judicial review and a notice of constitutional question, which are set to be heard in court on April 29, just days before the start of the program. They hope the court will at least delay the start of the hunt until it can rule on their legal actions.

The regulation would be contrary to animal cruelty laws in the Criminal Code, said the groups’ lawyer David Estrin.

“In our view, reinstituting this program would be tantamount to the minister and the Ministry of Natural Resources either wilfully permitting bear cubs to suffer or failing to exercise reasonable care or supervision of the bear cub population,” he said.

“The Criminal Code prohibits causing or allowing animals to suffer. This program of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources will cause black bears to suffer.”

The pilot project to reinstate the spring bear hunt will start May 1 and run for six weeks in eight wildlife areas known for having the most public safety incidents involving bears.

“In northern Ontario it is not responsible for a provincial government to ignore the concerns of thousands of residents who are concerned about their public safety,” said Natural Resources Minister David Orazietti.

“We have young children who can’t go out for recess at their schools, teachers wearing bear whistles because their children are threatened.”

Nearly 50 mayors and city councils across northern Ontario have passed resolutions calling for their participation in the program, Orazietti said. Out of 95 wildlife management units in Ontario, the pilot program will be in eight, he said.

“Some people who are completely unaffected by this issue and whose children may be perfectly safe in the schools that they attend have no understanding of the implications and the safety challenges in communities in northern Ontario,” Orazietti said.

The hunt was cancelled in 1999 and then-natural resources minister John Snobelen said it had left thousands of cubs orphaned since hunters too often mistakenly shoot mother bears.

“Really, the only answer we came up with was to end the spring bear hunt,” he said at the time. “It’s the only acceptable way.”

Orazietti said the government has learned over the past 15 years that other strategies to reduce human-bear incidents have met “fairly limited success.”

“This has been a very, very thoughtful and strategic approach,” he said Thursday. “We’re not suggesting a return of the spring bear hunt of yesteryear.”

The animal rights groups say the ministry’s own scientists have found no link between the end of the spring bear hunt and human-bear incidents. Orazietti said “that’s not completely true.”

“Our scientists do recognize that there are other scientists and other groups that have indicated that bear hunts do in fact have an impact on population,” he said.

Terry Quinney, the provincial manager of fish and wildlife services for the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, said the spring bear hunt was for decades a valuable wildlife population management tool.

“In reducing the density and distribution of bears in the spring, particularly those older male bears, it is absolutely reducing the probability of dangerous encounters with people,” he said.

Hunters target the male bears, Quinney said, and there are ways they can distinguish male and female bears, especially using suspended bait.

“It’s not hard to imagine that if a food source is placed, for example, hanging from a tree, a bear in order to reach that food source is going to stand on its hind legs, making its genitalia very visible to a hunter,” he said.

Quinney also said there would be economic and social benefits to re-establishing the spring bear hunt in northern communities.

“Prior to the cancellation of the spring bear hunt in Ontario there were approximately 600 family-based businesses in northern and central Ontario that were involved in the spring bear hunt, for example providing guiding services for hunters,” he said.

“Revenues to northern and central Ontario on an annual basis were in excess of $40 million a year. All of those economic benefits have disappeared from Ontario.”

Read more:

VERY IMPORTANT! Please vote in the on line poll in the Toronto Sun to say NO to reviving the spring bear hunt in Ontario. The poll is on the bottom right of the home page here:

Parks investigates CP railway trash

I’ve seen grizzly bears following the tracks in Jasper NP.

By: Cathy Ellis, ROCKY MOUNTAIN OUTLOOK, Thursday, Apr 17, 2014

Garbage along the CP line.

Reports of toxic trash and garbage along the Canadian Pacific Railway line in Banff National Park have prompted a Parks Canada investigation.

A series of photos provided to the Outlook show items of toxic trash, including discarded bottles of anti-freeze, diesel fuel and motor oil, as well as plastic bottles and food containers, scattered along the tracks near Massive Siding just east of Hillsdale meadows. Several small oil spills were also present as well as the usual sprinkling of grain along the tracks, plus a few larger grain piles. One photo shows a large pile of grain-filled bear scat right by the line.

Grizzly bear 122, the large dominant male in the park, has been seen regularly feeding on grain along the train tracks this spring, primarily in the area near Massive Siding, about 1 6 kilometres west of Banff, and at Eldon Siding near Protection Mountain. Parks Canada officials say wardens went out to the site Monday morning (April 14), then contacted CPR and asked for the site to be cleaned up.

“It’s concerning, for sure. We don’t want to see anything toxic or unnatural food sources in the national park,” said Terry Willis, supervisor of Parks Canada’s law enforcement branch in Banff National Park. “Sometimes you find a juice box or bottle, and that’s nothing different than you would see on the side of highway, unfortunately. But when there’s pails of oil and things like that, we don’t want to see bears or other wildlife getting into that.”

Canadian Pacific Railway has been developing a big extension to its Massive siding, building another 4,600 feet of track to extend it to about 12,000 feet to allow larger trains on the same line to pass. Canadian Pacific Railway officials say the garbage was cleaned up Monday and Tuesday and that the vacuum truck was out on the tracks late last week, even before the railway giant was aware of the situation. Ed Greenberg, a spokesman for the company, said it was the company’s intention to clean up the mess within a few days and the incident has resulted in railway crews being reminded of proper cleanup protocols, particularly in the national park.

“Our railway acknowledges there was disconnect in the cleanup process and this refuse should have been taken away a lot sooner,” said Greenberg. “Since being alerted of this oversight, clean up crews were dispatched to the location on Monday where the refuse has been collected. We realize there were timing issues involved and the situation should have been resolved before this.”

Steve Michel, Banff’s human-wildlife conflict specialist, said Parks Canada continues to work closely with CPR to resolve the issue of spilled grain along the tracks, noting there have been improvements in the big picture, including a Parks Canada-CPR joint action plan and CP’s reinvestment in maintaining its fleet.

However, as a result of significant hauling because of a bumper grain crop, he said there’s currently grain spillage on the tracks that wildlife are actively feeding on, including bear 122.

Michel said bear 122 is frequenting the train tracks almost exclusively, primarily concentrating in areas near CPR siding locations such as Eldon and Massive, and is also travelling a bit further to the west. “It’s mid-April and we’re not seeing a lot of bear activity on the landscape, and bear 122 is the only one we’ve been seeing on a regular basis; in fact, we’re seeing him on a daily basis. He’s essentially just travelling the railway tracks,” he said.

Michel said other than winterkill carcasses, there’s no other major food source for bears at the moment. “Any time a grizzly bear is foraging on the railway tracks, it’s quite concerning for us,” he said. “We hope he avoids being struck by a train, but we recognize his current foraging patterns are putting him into a very risky situation.”

Meanwhile, Willis said it was his impression the garbage had been buried under snow throughout winter, and is now thawing out. He said he was not sure if it was related to regular railway work or the project to extend the siding. He said the next step is trying to find out who put it there. When asked if charges would be considered, Willis said it would likely result in a warning. “If it’s warranted, we certainly look at charges, but until we talk to CP and understand the circumstances of how it got there and who put it there… it’s hard to prove who put it there, right now,” he said.

Parks Canada asks that any suspicious activity be reported to 1-888-WARDENS .

Meanwhile, Parks Canada issued a warning on Tuesday (April 15) for the Great Divide Route (the old 1A Highway) because of a large grizzly bear frequenting the ski trail and adjacent railway.

Inuit use social media to post “sealfies,” standing beside freshly killed seals

Humane Society says it doesn’t oppose Inuit seal hunt

Donation to group by Ellen DeGeneres sparked #sealfie social media campaign

The Canadian Press Posted: Apr 08, 2014

Related Stories

Wildlife Photography © Jim Robertson

Wildlife Photography © Jim Robertson

A spokeswoman for the Canadian arm of the Humane Society International isclarifying the group’s position on the Inuit seal hunt, as a protest against TV star Ellen DeGeneres in the North gains support.

Rebecca Aldworth says recent reports on the protests are mixing up subsistence sealing in Canada’s North with the commercial hunt.

She says animal protection groups oppose commercial sealing in Atlantic Canada by non-aboriginal people.

Inuit in Nunavut have been engaged in a “sealfie” movement ever since DeGeneres took a celebrity selfie at the Oscars last month.

DeGeneres donated $1.5 million of the money raised by the star-studded picture to the Humane Society of the United States, an organization that fights seal hunting.

In response, Inuit are using social media to post pictures of themselves wearing sealskin clothes, standing beside freshly killed seals or looking forward to enjoying a seal meal.

“Commercial sealing advocates have long attempted to blur the lines between their globally condemned industry and the socially accepted Inuit subsistence hunt,” Aldworth said in a statement Tuesday.

“Unlike Inuit sealers, commercial sealers almost exclusively target baby seals who are less than three months old. Inuit hunters kill seals primarily for meat,” she said.

“Commercial sealers slaughter seal pups for their fur, dumping most of the carcasses at sea. Inuit sealers kill seals sporadically throughout the year, while commercial sealers often kill hundreds of thousands of seals in a matter of days or weeks.”

Inuit have long maintained that any opposition to the seal hunt, commercial or otherwise, harms Inuit by destroying the market for seal furs. That’s the reason Inuit launched a legal challenge against a European ban of seal products, even though that legislation included an exemption for seal products harvested by Inuit.

While it is true that most seals harvested in the commercial seal hunt are under three months old, all are independent animals. Hunting white coat baby seals has been outlawed in Canada since 1987.

To promote its own message, the Inuit land claims group Nunavut Tunngavik is supporting the sealfie movement and plans to operate a photo booth in its offices in Iqaluit this Thursday. It is also organizing a giant sealfie in Iqaluit on Friday afternoon.

The group says it wants to educate people about Nunavut’s sustainable and humane seal harvest.

During the Oscar broadcast on March 2, host, comedian and daytime TV star DeGeneres went into the audience and snapped a selfie that included luminaries such as Bradley Cooper, Meryl Streep and Kevin Spacey. Smartphone manufacturer Samsung, which made the phone DeGeneres used, promised to donate a dollar to charity for every time the photo was retweeted.

The selfie almost immediately crashed Twitter and became the most widely retweeted photo ever.

In statements on her website, DeGeneres, a vegan, calls the seal hunt “one of the most atrocious and inhumane acts against animals allowed by any government.”

British Columbia’s controversial spring grizzly bear hunt now open

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

by Dene Moore Apr. 02 2014

British Columbia’s controversial spring grizzly bear hunt opened Tuesday, with one of the highest number of hunting authorizations issued in decades.

Based on government counts that showed stabilization of specific grizzly populations previously closed due to overhunting, the government reopened several areas to hunting this year. An estimated 1,800 authorizations will be issued, up from about 1,700 last year but lower than the 1,980 issued in 2011.

“I think we have the best idea [of the population] of any of the jurisdictions that hunt bears right now,” said Garth Mowat, a provincial government grizzly bear biologist in the Kootenay region.

“We have spent a lot of resources improving our understanding of the number of bears in British Columbia and I’m quite comfortable that it’s good enough to allow us to conservatively manage the hunt.”

The spring grizzly hunt runs from April 1 to the end of May. The fall hunt begins Oct. 1 and continues into mid-November.

Though 1,800 hunting authorizations will be issued, so far this year 1,459 licences have been issued via a lottery system. In 2011, 1,733 licences were issued of the 1,980 authorizations.

On average about 300 grizzlies are killed annually. The most recent year for which information is publicly available is 2009, when between 350 and 400 bears were shot.

Provincial biologists estimate there are approximately 15,000 grizzly bears in the province, which is home to about a quarter of the remaining North American population. Only Alaska has more grizzlies.

Biologist Paul Paquet of the Raincoast Foundation said it’s extremely difficult to get a proper count of grizzly bears and there could be far fewer – too few to risk a trophy hunt.

“The real numbers could be somewhere as low as 6,000 or as high as 18,000. We just don’t know,” Paquet said.

But the bigger question is the moral one, he said.

“Is this ethical, to be hunting bears? That’s really what’s at issue,” Paquet said. “This is a trophy hunt, as opposed to a hunt for food.”

Mowat agrees that the real issue is a question of moral support for the hunt.

“The debate about whether an individual morally supports a bear hunt and the debate about the sustainability of the hunt get woven together,” he said.

He does not believe there are conservation concerns.

In fact, he said, after 30 years of provincial management grizzlies are repopulating areas where they had been wiped out. Sows with cubs have been spotted moving west from the Kootenay mountains, into the Okanagan and Similkameen regions.

Conservation has been a concern.

They are largely extinct south of the Canada-U.S. border. The Alberta government suspended its grizzly hunt in 2006 and declared the bears a threatened species in 2010.

But in Alaska, there are 30,000 brown and grizzly bears, which are classed as the same species. The state fish and game department said about 1,900 were harvested in 2007.

Kyle Artelle, a biologist at Simon Fraser University and Raincoast, said the foundation’s own study found the provincial government quotas are not conservative and overkills are common.

“There’s a huge amount of uncertainty,” Artelle said.

Nine coastal First Nations have declared bans on bear hunting in their traditional territories. The Wuikinuxv, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Nuxalk, Gitga’at, Metlakatla, Old Massett, Skidegate, and the Council of the Haida Nation say hunting is not allowed in the areas that largely cover the Great Bear Rainforest, though the ban is not recognized by the province.

In 2005, Raincoast began buying out commercial bear hunting licences in B.C. The group now owns the guide outfitting rights to more than 28,000 square kilometres of land in the Great Bear Rainforest on the north-central coast.

While the white spirit bears that call the region home cannot be hunted, the black bears that carry the recessive gene that produces them can be, said Chris Genovali, executive director.

The hunt is not necessary to manage the population, he said, and a recent study from Stanford University found that bear viewing contributes 10 times as much revenue and employment as hunting.

“The ethical argument is clear: killing for sport and amusement is unacceptable and, a lot of people would say, just outright immoral,” Genovali said.

3 elk shot and left to die near Fernie, B.C.

Photo  Jim Robertson

Photo Jim Robertson

Conservation officer Frank DeBoon says someone went for a drive recently in
the Baynes Lake area south of Fernie, spotted a herd of elk and shot into
it, dropping three cows where they stood.

Deboon says the three females, who were likely pregnant, were then left
there to die. In 26 years as a conservation officer, DeBoon says he’s never
seen anything like it.

“It’s pretty upsetting to see somebody who would just go and shoot animals
and leave them to waste,” he told CBC News.

Deboon estimates it happened about a week ago. He says the shooter or
shooters didn’t take anything.

“The elk were all in good health, probably pregnant with this year’s calves.
There’s no reason for it other than somebody deciding to shoot them.”

DeBoon says they’ll likely get away with it too. The site of the shooting is
off a fairly remote logging road and unless there was more than one person
in the vehicle, there are likely no witnesses.

Still DeBoon wants the story out there. He’s hoping someone either heard the
shots, or or perhaps stories from someone bragging about their hunting

The shooting comes after nearly a dozen elk were shot and butchered by
poachers on Vancouver Island last year.

Grizzly bear kill quota increases in Canada


Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

March 2014: As British Columbia prepares for its annual spring grizzly bear hunting season, researchers are protesting that the hunting quotas put in place by the province are too high.

The British Columbia Government has cited that some sub-populations of bears have recovered, and therefore has opened up areas that have been closed to hunting, increasing the grizzly bear kill quota from 1,700 to 1,800. This is based on estimations by the Government of a population of around 13,000 to 14,000 grizzlies.

However, biologist at the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and the University of Victoria Paul Paquet argues that the data that has informed these estimates is inaccurate, as the methods used to collect it are outdated. Bear numbers are calculated by various techniques such as aerial surveys and traps that snag hairs of passing bears. “In many cases [the population estimate] will be based on assumptions that are maybe 10 years old,” explains Paquet, “None of this is easy, obviously. But we need to take account of the uncertainties.” Due to the way in which the data is collected, Paquet believes that the bear population could be as low as 8,000, or higher than 15,000.

Based on their findings the British Columbia Government has set a ‘maximum allowable mortality rate’ of 6 per cent of the grizzly population per year. However this mortality rate, put forward researchers, doesn’t take into account deaths by unnatural causes, such as road accidents and hunting, meaning that more bears die than the 6 per cent quoted by the Government, leading to ‘overkills’. In order to reduce the risk of overkills to a safe level, the researchers conclude that there needs to be an 81 per cent reduction of the target. “Because these are long-lived, slow-reproducing populations, they don’t necessarily recover from overkill,” Paquet explains.

Paquet along with Kyle Artelle – a conservation ecologist at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada – co-authored a letter sent to Science last week. A total of four leading scientific researchers, including Artelle and Paquet, have signed a letter questioning the province’s estimates and expanded killing zones. The concerned researchers also spoke to the journal Nature in an attempt to open the quota to debate and raise awareness of the issue.

Although the grizzly bear is listed as ‘threatened’ under the Endangered Species Act in the United States, it is not listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, and is not protected by the Canadian Government. British Columbia boasts a quarter of the population of all North American grizzlies, however the bear’s habitat in certain areas may be under threat. The province does have protected areas, including the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, but this area is under pressure from firms exploring the possibility of implementing a pipeline here. In the Purcell Mountains, there are plans to build a giant ski resort near the Jumbo Pass, which would threaten the north-south migration of the grizzlies.

Read our Field guide to grizzlies here, which has details on their habitat, threats, diet, and where to see them in the wild.


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