Romania bans trophy hunting of brown bears, wolves, lynx and wild cats

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/05/romania-bans-trophy-hunting-of-brown-bears-wolves-lynx-and-wild-cats

Unexpected move reverses a trend that has seen increasing numbers of large carnivores shot by hunters each year since Romania’s accession to the European Union

A brown bear and her cub play on the road on the outskirts of Sinaia, north of Bucharest
In 2016, the largest hunting quotas yet gave hunters the mandate to shoot 550 bears, 600 wolves and 500 big cats over 12 months. Photograph: Radu Sigheti/Reuters

Romania has banned all trophy hunting of brown bears, wolves, lynx and wild cats in a surprise decision that gives Europe’s largest population of large carnivores a reprieve from its most severe and immediate threat.

The move on Tuesday reverses a trend which has seen the number of large carnivores being shot by hunters grow year on year since Romania’s accession into the European Union in 2007. In 2016, the largest hunting quotas yet gave hunters the mandate to shoot 550 bears, 600 wolves and 500 big cats over 12 months.

Over the last decade, hunting has grown into a multimillion-euro industry in Romania, with hunters from all over the world paying up to €10,000 (£8,800) to claim a ‘trophy’ – hunting parlance for the carcass of a hunted animal – from the Carpathian mountains.

The government has claimed that in order to exist, the industry relies on a loophole in European law which allows for the culling of wild animals that have been proven to be a danger to humans. Under the habitats directive, all large carnivores are protected in European Union member states, yet the state can order the killing of specific animals if shown to have attacked a person or damaged private property.

“Hunting for money was already illegal, but it was given a green light anyway,” environment minster, Cristiana Pasca-Palmer, told the Guardian. ‘The damages [clause in the habitats directive] acted as a cover for trophy hunting.”

Each year, hundreds of hunting associations across the country would submit two numbers; the total population of each large carnivore species, and the total number which they believed to be likely to cause damages. The second number would then act as a basis for a government-issued hunting quota for each species. These quotas were then carved up between hunting companies and sold as hunting rights to the public.

“This method raised some questions,” says Pasca-Palmer. “How can hunting associations count how many animals are causing damages a priori – before the damages have happened? By introducing the ban, what we are doing is simply putting things back on the right track, as the habitats directive originally intended.”

Wildlife NGOs claim that the methodology also tended to dramatically overestimate the populations of large carnivores. The official figure for the number of bears in Romania is over 6,000, and for wolves is 4,000. Yet with hundreds of hunting associations each responsible for monitoring a small area of land, and animals prone to wandering, it is understood that individual animals were often counted multiple times, potentially pushing the total population statistics up by thousands.

Announced late on Tuesday evening, the ban is expected to divide Romania’s population, pitching rural and urban dwellers against each other. The government’s decision has strong support in the larger cities, which have seen a growing movement against hunting in recent months. But in much of Romania’s remote countryside large carnivores are a daily threat to villagers and a persistent nuisance to livestock farmers, and many see hunting as the only solution.

Csaba Domokos, a bear specialist with wildlife protection NGO Milvus group, is convinced that the success or failure of the hunting ban rides on the government’s ability to address the rural population’s fears.

“Damages caused by large carnivores are a very real concern in the countryside,” he said. “The system up until now did not work; hunting does not reduce conflicts between carnivores and humans; in fact many studies show that with wolves and large cats, it can actually increase the problem.

“But the rural population believe that hunting is the answer, and unless they can be convinced otherwise, people may well start to take the problem into their own hands. The ban is a great step, but we don’t want hunting to be replaced by poaching.”

Domokos points out that hunters also have a vested interested in the protection of their quarry. “To some extent, hunting acts as a financial incentive for wildlife management, from preventing poaching to conserving habitats. There is some concern that once you take that away, the government will not invest enough to replace it.”

Hunters pay up to €10,000 to trophy hunt in the Carpathian mountains
Pinterest
Hunters pay up to €10,000 to trophy hunt in the Carpathian mountains. Photograph: Nick Turner/Alamy

The government’s response is to take management into its own hands. A special unit is to be set up within the paramilitary police force that will assess any reports of damages by large carnivores and deal with the culprit animal directly. The ministry of environment have discussed the possibility of relocating the target animals abroad to countries interested in ‘rewilding’.

The ban comes amid a growing push for the protection of Romania’s wild mountains that has seen anti-corruption officers convict dozens of foresters, hunters and local officials in recent years.

Gabriel Paun, an activist and conservationist behind a petition that collected 11,000 signatures in the weeks before the hunting ban, sees the government’s decision as a step towards a safer future for Europe’s wild spaces: “The Carpathian mountains are home to more biodiversity than anywhere else in Europe, but for too long they have been ruthlessly exploited for forestry and hunting. Let’s hope the government’s decision is a sign of things to come.”

The grisly truth about B.C.’s grizzly trophy hunt

http://theprovince.com/author/david-suzuki

by David Suzuki

Grizzly bears venturing from dens in search of food this spring will face landscapes dominated by mines, roads, pipelines, clearcuts and ever-expanding towns and cities. As in years past, they will also face the possibility of painful death at the hands of trophy hunters.

B.C.’s spring bear hunt just opened. Hunters are fanning out across the province’s mountains, grasslands, forests and coastline, armed with rifles and the desire to bag a grizzly bear, just to put its head on a wall or its pelt on the floor as a “trophy.”

According to B.C. government statistics, they will kill about 300 of these majestic animals by the end of the spring and fall hunts. If this year follows previous patterns, about 30 per cent of the slaughter will be females, the reproductive engines of grizzly populations.

Many grizzlies will likely be killed within B.C.’s renowned provincial parks and protected areas, where trophy hunting is legal. Government records obtained by the David Suzuki Foundation in 2008 show trophy hunters have shot dozens of grizzlies in places we would expect wildlife to be protected. We don’t know the exact number of bears killed in parks since 2008 because, in contravention of a B.C.’s privacy commissioner’s ruling, the government refuses to disclose recent spatial data showing where bears have been killed.

Much of this killing has occurred in northern wilderness parks, such as Height of the Rockies Provincial Park, Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Park and Tatshenshini-Alsek Wilderness Park. Tatshenshini-Alsek Park forms a massive trans-boundary conservation zone with federal protected areas in the Yukon and Alaska. Trophy hunting is prohibited in most U.S. national parks and all Canadian national parks.

 Wild animals don’t heed political boundaries. Wide-ranging species like grizzlies move in and out of neighbouring jurisdictions. If a bear in Montana wanders a few kilometres north in search of a mate, it goes from being protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act to being a possible target in B.C.

But now, in response to intense pressure from the trophy hunting industry, the U.S. administration wants to strip grizzly bears of federal protection. U.S. President Donald Trump also recently signed into law rules allowing trophy hunters to target grizzly bears around bait stations and from aircraft and to kill mothers and their cubs in Alaska’s national wildlife refuges, where they’ve been protected from these unethical hunting practices.

Grizzly bears face an ominous political climate under the Trump administration, along with growing human threats across their range, from trophy hunting to habitat destruction, precipitous declines in food sources like salmon and whitebark pine nuts and climate change impacts.

In parts of Canada, mainly in sparsely populated areas of northern B.C. and the territories, grizzly bear numbers are stable. But in the Interior and southern B.C. and Alberta, grizzlies have been relegated to a ragged patchwork of small, isolated and threatened habitats — a vestige of the forests and grasslands they once dominated. The B.C. government has ended grizzly hunting among highly threatened sub-populations in the Interior and southern parts of B.C. And, in response to pressure from local First Nations, it has promised to do the same in the Great Bear Rainforest. But the slaughter of B.C.’s great bears continues everywhere else.

That this year’s spring hunt coincides with a B.C. election could bring hope for grizzlies, possibly catalyzing the first change in government wildlife policy in close to two decades. The May 9 election will give B.C. residents the opportunity to ask candidates if they will end the grizzly hunt if elected. So far, the B.C. NDP and Green Party say they would ban grizzly trophy hunting (but allow grizzly hunting for food), whereas the B.C. Liberals continue to defend and promote the trophy hunt as “well-managed,” despite scientific evidence to the contrary.

The fate of B.C.’s grizzlies is too important to be a partisan issue. All politicians should support protection. Rough-and-tumble politics this election season might finally end B.C.’s cruel and unsustainable grizzly bear trophy hunt. It’s time to stop this grisly business.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Faisal Moola is the David Suzuki Foundation’s director-general for Ontario and Northern Canada and an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto and York University.

Parasite Reminds Hunters Bear Meat Must Be Thoroughly Cooked

http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=wildlifenews.view_article&articles_id=682

By Riley Woodford

 caption follows

A brown colored black bear. Bears and other carnivores and scavengers in Alaska commonly carry the trichinella roundworm parasite, which can be transmitted to people who eat undercooked meat. Richard Housineaux photo.

Aparty of successful out-of-state hunters left Alaska earlier this year with bear meat – and a load of parasites.

The incident is a good reminder that the trichinellosis roundworm is widespread in bears and meat needs to be thoroughly cooked, said Dr. Louisa Castrodale, an epidemiologist and veterinarian with the Alaska Department of Health. She said the group of friends became sick after they returned home.

“They all came up to hunt, from four different states, and after they got home they started emailing back and forth, ‘Are you sick? I’m sick.’ They figured it out,” Castrodale said. “One person from Washington had some meat and had the Washington Health Department test it, and it was positive.”

She said the hunters cooked hunks of meat over their campfire. “Like any meat, you want to get it up over a certain temperature and thoroughly cook the whole thing,” she said. “Over a fire it’s hard to say if it’s evenly cooked.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wild game meat like bear should reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees and rest at that temperature for three minutes. Curing, salting, drying, smoking, or microwaving does not consistently kill the worms, and homemade jerky and sausage were the cause of many cases of trichinellosis reported to CDC in recent years.

That’s true in Alaska. Dr. Kimberlee Beckmen, the veterinarian for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said curing methods that don’t kill the parasites, such as drying or smoking, and inadequate cooking, like slow cooking in a crock pot, cause most of the cases she knows of in Alaska.

caption follows

Drying is not an appropriate method for curing bear meat, as it doesn’t kill the parasites.

“People should always assume bear meat is infected,” she said. “It must be cooked, 100 percent of the time. You can’t see the larvae, they’re microscopic.”

Trichinellosis, also called trichinosis, is the disease caused by a nematode, a tiny worm with an adult and larval form. Trichinella is the genus, and spiralis is the species most adapted to domestic pigs. T. nativa is the species found in Alaska’s bears. It’s a much tougher bug. Freezing will kill spiralis, freezing doesn’t kill the northern variety, nativa.

Beckmen cited a study where infected polar bear meat was frozen at minus 18 degrees centigrade for six years and the parasites were still viable; and another where fox meat frozen for four years was still laden with living larvae, ready to infect a new host. “It’s arctic adapted to freezing,” she said. “For Trichinella to spread, it has to be consumed by another carnivore. It can survive for a very long time in a carcass that is frozen. It wants to be consumed by another potential host later. It’s biding its time.”

Trichinella nativa is found in carnivores such as wolves, foxes, lynx and coyotes, and walrus and seals as well. So how do carnivores live with this parasite?

caption follows

While the trichinella species most commonly found in pork can be killed by freezing and by heating the meat to 140 degrees, the Alaska trichinella parasite found in bears is more hardy. Meat must be cooked thoroughly to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, and then hold or “rest” at that temperature for at least three minutes.

“It’s a parasite that evolved along with the hosts, carnivores and scavengers, so bears and lynx are adapted to living with it,” Beckmen said. “It affects us more severely because we’re not typically exposed to it. Some animals may develop muscle edema and pain, and I’m sure some animals suffer more problems than others depending on the number of larvae they consume.”

Parasites in general don’t cause severe symptoms in the species they’re evolved for, she said. Parasites and their hosts evolve together, and it rarely benefits the parasite to kill its host. “Wildlife having parasites is a normal state, and doesn’t usually cause problems unless the animal is sick from some other reason or stressed.”

But that’s not the case when the parasite jumps to a different species. In part because the parasite can’t complete its usual life cycle, it gets confused and ends up in the wrong part of the body, like the eyes instead of the gut.

“It’s not meant to be in us, we react severely,” Beckmen said. “Like the roundworm of dogs, which causes blindness and brain inflation in children. In people it may migrate throughout the body, it goes to the brain or the eyes, in a dog, it goes to intestine and lives there on the contents.”

Trichinellosis rarely kills people, but it can cause severe pain, swelling and inflammation. Castrodale said initial symptoms result from the adult parasites in the intestinal tract and include diarrhea. She added that the initial symptoms can be mild and may not even really register. Over the course of the next few weeks the larvae migrate to muscles and establish themselves, which results in fever, muscle pain, weakness, and sometimes swelling around the skin of the eyes. “That’s when people realize something is up, they’re sick,” she said.

photo

The CDC reports that trichinellosis is rare, and about 20 cases a year are reported. Rare, but Castrodale said this isn’t the first time a situation like this has occurred. “People will call from out of state and describe their symptoms and we’ll ask, ‘Did you eat bear meat?’ If you have those muscle pains and walk into clinic in Lower 48 they won’t necessarily think to ask about it.”

Prompt treatment with deworming drugs will kill the adults, but once larvae are established in muscle tissue, usually three or four weeks after infection, they’re much less vulnerable to the drug. The CDC reports that the host immune response leads to expulsion of the adult worms after several weeks; the larvae, once in muscle, can persist for months or years, although symptoms typically wane after several months.

“Treatment might include a steroid to calm the immune response and address the inflammation,” Castrodale said. “Eventually people get over it, it runs its course. You still have them, but they stop migrating, they’re walled off and encysted.”

caption follows

Caribou meat can carry a parasitic disease, toxoplasmosis, and should be cooked.

How prevalent is this parasite in Alaska’s wild carnivores?

Beckmen looked at tissue samples from bears and wolves killed in the state predator control program. She’s also sampled bears killed in Defense of Life and Property (DLP) and sampled coyotes, lynx and walrus. She said the tongue and diaphragm will have most larvae. Lynx, coyotes, foxes and wolves have a very high rate of infection, but since people don’t generally eat those animals that’s not well known.

“The prevalence rate in black bears is higher the further north you go, and polar bears are 100 percent infected,” she said.

She added that another parasitic disease, toxoplasmosis, is also prevalent in wild game in northern Alaska and she cautions people against eating raw meat from caribou or marine mammals.

Pregnant women should especially abstain, as toxoplasmosis can be damaging or fatal to a developing fetus. Small children are also at risk.

“It’s better to cook the meat,” she said.

More on wildlife diseases that hunters might encounter

A handy one-page color PDF on trichinosis and other common wildlife parasites

By Riley Woodford

Trump repeals Alaskan bear hunting regs

Trump repeals Alaskan bear hunting regs
© Getty Images

President Trump rolled back a trio of regulations Monday, including protections for hibernating bears in Alaska.

The Obama-era rule from the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) prohibited certain hunting tactics that target “predator” animals likes bears and wolves while they are inside Alaska’s national preserves. This included a ban on hunters using airplanes.

Trump overturned the rule Monday, handing control of the hunting regulations over to Alaska state officials who have shown an eagerness to control predator populations as a way to protect other animals such as deer. But animal rights activists say this will open the door to hunters snatching hibernating bears and wolves out of their dens, or even killing them in front of their cubs.

The president also rolled back the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Internet privacy rules and the Labor Department’s workplace protections that required companies to report injuries and illnesses that occur on the job.

Data reveals more than 300 B.C. grizzlies killed by hunters yearly

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/more-than-300-bc-grizzly-bears-killed-by-hunters-yearly-david-suzuki-data/article34550355/

VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail

Nearly 14,000 grizzly bears have been killed in B.C. since the government started tracking mortality records for the species in 1975, the vast majority by hunters, according to provincial data compiled by the David Suzuki Foundation.

Of those bears – an estimated 329 each year – 87 per cent have been killed by licensed hunters, with other kills attributed to causes including the shooting of problem bears by conservation officers, illegal poaching and collisions with cars and trains.

A total of 13,804 grizzly bears have been killed by humans from 1975 to 2016, the group says.

 The Suzuki foundation provided the data to The Globe and Mail ahead of the opening on Saturday of the province’s controversial trophy grizzly-bear hunt. The governing Liberal party has defended the hunt and resisted calls to shut it down. With the Opposition NDP opposed to the hunt, the issue will likely arise during the spring election campaign.

The figures, compiled from the B.C. Compulsory Inspection Database, show a relatively consistent number of grizzly bears killed each year over the past four decades, with the exception of a dip in 2001, when there was a moratorium on the grizzly-bear hunt.

(The database consists of information submitted by hunters through required inspections for certain species, including grizzly bears.)

The figures also indicate that, on average, 34 per cent of grizzly bears killed each year are female – a percentage that worries some conservationists and is one element in a public debate over whether the hunt should be banned.

“Despite being a large, dominant animal, grizzlies are among the most threatened large species on the continent,” Faisal Moola, director-general of the Suzuki foundation, said on Friday.

Because female grizzly bears reproduce later in life and have a small number of cubs that survive, the species is vulnerable to decline if too many female bears are taken out of the population, he said.

“The ability of a population to rebound, or bounce back, from a period of hunting, is wholly dependent on the success of those female bears to continue to reproduce and replenish the population,” Dr. Moola said.

The province estimates the grizzly population in B.C. at 15,000 – about one-quarter of the population in North America. Of 56 bear “population units” in B.C. – geographic areas based on habitat and natural boundaries – nine are classified as threatened.

But conservation groups say that figure overestimates the health of the grizzly population.

The Liberal government maintains that the grizzly-bear hunt is sustainable, based on sound science, and tightly regulated.

If hunters take more than 30 per cent of female bears, “hunting opportunities are reduced or that unit is closed to hunting,” the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations said on Friday in a statement.

There is significant opposition to the hunt, including from First Nations that see greater economic opportunity in bear-viewing.

There is also debate over whether sanctioned hunts could put further pressure on population units deemed to be threatened.

The province refused to provide spatial data on individual grizzly kills unless the Suzuki foundation agreed to sign a confidentiality agreement, which it declined to do, Dr. Moola said.

Without that information, the group was unable to determine whether grizzly bears are being killed in parks or protected areas or in local populations where over-hunting has occurred in the past, he said in an e-mail.

Kill locations of grizzly bears are “considered sensitive information and not released publicly,” the ministry said. “The province fully supports ensuring the long-term sustainability of Grizzly bear populations, and the protection of seasonally-critical habitats is a significant part of conservation efforts,” the ministry added.

Grizzly-bear hunting is not allowed in areas where conservation is a concern. Last September, the B.C. Auditor-General’s office included grizzly-bear management in its list of planned projects to determine “whether government is meeting its objective of ensuring healthy grizzly bear populations throughout B.C.”

Alaska’s national refuges are not private game reserves

The Times Editorial Board

March 18, 2017 5 am

The 16 national wildlife refuges in Alaska span the state from the remote Arctic on the northern edge to the volcanic Aleutian islands southwest of Anchorage. Across the refuges’ nearly 77 million acres, animal diversity abounds — ice worms and seabirds, black bears and grizzly bears, wolves, moose, caribou, predators and prey. There is one guiding principle behind the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s management of all the species on these refuges: Conserve the natural diversity of wildlife as it is. In essence, let them be, and let humans enjoy the spectacle of nature on these refuges.

But at these particular enclaves, that also means letting humans hunt — within limits. It’s difficult to believe that any wildlife refuge isn’t truly a refuge from hunters. That’s the way the national system of refuges started, but over the last quarter century, many have been opened up to regulated hunting.

 And herein lies the problem. The state of Alaska shares the responsibility for managing the refuges’ wildlife, and it has its own goal: Making sure there are plenty of animals to hunt. In an effort to maximize the number of moose, caribou and deer, the state authorized in some areas more efficient but brutal methods to kill the wolves and bears that prey upon those popular hunting targets.

Concerned that the state’s predator control campaign could become widespread enough to disrupt the refuges’ ecosystems, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a rule that bars hunters and trappers in the refuges from killing wolves and their pups in their dens, killing bear cubs or sows with cubs, baiting brown bears, shooting bears from aircraft, or capturing bears with traps and snares. The rule took effect in September.

Alarmingly, Alaska’s congressional delegation is pushing hard to get rid of these ecologically sound and humane restrictions, and Republican lawmakers are responding. A joint resolution revoking the rule has passed the House and is expected to come up for a vote in the Senate the week of March 20. It is misguided and should be hunted down and killed.

Let’s be clear on a few things. The federal rule prohibits only these gruesome methods of hunting on national wildlife refuges. It does not apply to hunting in state-owned wilderness or to rural Alaskan residents who hunt for subsistence. And it’s doubtful that killing huge numbers of wolves and bears would automatically drive up the number of moose and caribou. “The best available science indicates that widespread elimination of bears, coyotes and wolves will quite unlikely make ungulate herds magically reappear,” wrote 31 biologists and other scientists to then-Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell last year when the rule was still being studied.

In other words, the Alaskan government sought to allow types of hunting that probably would not accomplish what it wants to accomplish, but would end up killing brown bears who’d been lured with bait, slaughtering helpless cubs and wolf pups, and allowing bears to languish in excruciating pain for unknown hours in steel-jawed traps. This is unconscionable.

And this is not a case of states’ rights being usurped by the federal government. If anything, the congressional measures would subvert the federal government’s decades-long statutory authority over federal lands in Alaska. The national refuges are not Alaska’s private game reserve. That wilderness belongs to all of us. The Senate should stop this bill from going any further.

Justice for BC Grizzlies

Help BC Grizzly Bears by contacting BC political candidates and ask for #TrophyFreeBC + #BanTrophyHunting.

Our Thunderclap campaign to Ban the Grizzly Hunt in British Columbia launched on March 10/17 with 304 supporters and a social reach of over 500, 000. That campaign is now closed but the pledge campaign and survey of political candidates are still active. Thank you to all who joined the Thunderclap campaign and helped to get this time-sensitive message out there.

NOW is the time to take this campaign to the next critical step. We ask all BC residents to take action by contacting political candidates in their riding, and elsewhere in BC, and asking them where they stand on ending the BC grizzly hunt.

TAKING ACTION IS EASY TO DO!

1. GO TO https://justiceforbcgrizzlies.com/2017-provincial-election-grizzly-survey-results/ and check your riding to see which candidates have responded to the survey that asked where they stand on the BC grizzly hunt. If a candidate in your riding has not responded to the survey, call and ask them to do so.

2. GO TO justiceforbcgrizzlies.com Call to Action, where you will find information, links and three sample letters that you can use verbatim, or adapt with your own words. These letters can be sent online or surface mail to candidates in your riding and to politicians currently in government. Addresses for key political leaders can be found at https://justiceforbcgrizzlies.com/pledge-for-grizzlies-campaign/ where you can also take the pledge for grizzlies.

UPCOMING EVENT:  Rally for BC Grizzlies,  April 1/17, 1-2:30 at the Legislature in Victoria.  April 1st marks the first day of the hunt in most regions of the province.  Join us to stand up for Grizzly Bears!

Connecticut lawmakers considering bear hunting season

http://wtnh.com/2017/03/04/connecticut-lawmakers-considering-bear-hunting-season/

(Photo: Shutterstock)
(Photo: Shutterstock)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — With bear sightings on the increase in Connecticut, lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow the animals to be hunted.

The General Assembly’s Environment Committee will hear testimony Monday on a bill requiring the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to come up with regulations and standards for black bear management, including hunting seasons and permit eligibility.

Days before the hearing, numerous opponents and proponents had already submitted written testimony on the bill, originally proposed by Litchfield Rep. Craig Miner, the committee’s Republican Senate chairman.

Opponents contend bears are a slow-to-reproduce species and would be susceptible to overhunting.

But proponents note how bears are moving into more urban areas and can be costly for the state to handle. They say a regulated hunting season would save the state money.

The fight is on over grizzly hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest

http://wuwm.com/post/fight-over-grizzly-hunting-great-bear-rainforest#stream/0

  JAN 31, 2017 

The small outboard boat I’m in is floating along the estuary of the Nekite River.

It’s a cloudless morning and just beyond the bow there’s rustling of trees and the sound of branches snapping.

I’m holding my microphone as far out as I can — so that I can record the sound of a male grizzly, on the shore about 15 yards away.

My guide here is Tom Rivest. “That is the sound that is called either chuffing or huffing. It sounds a little bit like bellows expelling air,” says Rivest. “The bears do that when they’re stressed — or excited, or a little both — which they probably are.”

The reason this bear is excited is that it’s mating season and he’s following a female and her two cubs.

Related: The Great Bear Rainforest is a model for how to save trees

Rivest co-owns a floating lodge here and has been taking tourists to this spot for 15 years.

So he knows this bear. He calls it Bo Diddley.

“Bo and I go back 10 years,” says Rivest. “So he was just a little scrawny thing back then. And now he’s quite large — probably an 800-pound bear.”

Bears like Bo Diddley are a big draw for tourists paying top dollar to see them. But there’s another type of tourist looking for bears here. Before I came here, I called up another guide to see what draws his customers.

“They’re world class as far as size and weight — and skull measurement.”

Skull measurement is one of the criteria for guide outfitters like Peter Klaui.

He owns a hunting license for a huge swath of the Great Bear Rainforest and runs a guiding company.

Klaui’s current license allows the hunting of 23 bears over five years, with a maximum of 7 per year.

Hunters pay him upwards of $20,000 for a trip here. But the hunting culture here may be winding down.

Earlier this year, the British Columbia government officially endorsed the practice of conservation groups buying hunting licenses from guides like Peter Klaui.

“Previously we just went and did it,” says Chris Genovali, head of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

In cooperation with Coastal First Nations, an alliance of aboriginal groups, Genovali’s foundation helps raise the millions of dollars needed to buy the hunting license tenures. They already own rights to about a third of the Great Bear Rainforest.

Genovali is no fan of trophy hunting in general, but he says it’s particularly cruel to hunt grizzlies here because they’re out in the open, grazing in estuaries or following a salmon run.

“It’s like someone walking into your kitchen or your dining room as you’re eating your breakfast or dinner and shooting you,” says Genovali. “It’s obscene. It’s becoming viewed by an overwhelming majority of the public as a fringe behavior.”

Genovali points to a poll in which only 10 percent of those who responded supported trophy hunting.

But there’s sort of a wink and a nod in conservationists’ deal with the government. In order to buy the hunting licenses, his group has to use them.

“We’ve had to show what’s called commercial activity,” explains Genovali. Once a year, they take out tourists for a fake hunt.

“We take clients on hunts in our guide outfitting territories and we look for bears — the difference is we shoot them with cameras.”

The BC government has agreed to an outright end to commercial grizzly bear hunting in some native territory in the Great Bear.

So the pressure is clearly on hunting guides. But Klaui says he isn’t worried about his business.

“Nothing has changed since that announcement and I don’t expect it to change,” says Klaui. He says he’s still getting calls from hunters. But Klaui also says he’s planning to retire at some point soon and might sell his license.

And he might even sell it to a conservation or aboriginal group if they offered him the most money. “If they want to eliminate or slow down hunting of carnivores in the Great Bear Rainforest, they can do like anybody else and offer to buy out the business, just like on Wall Street.”

As for the grizzlies grazing on sedge grass on the Nekite River, they are safe from the crosshair of a rifle.

Raincoast Conservation Foundation owns the commercial hunting rights here. The area is also off limits to local resident hunters.

Rivest says that’s important because these bears have become used to humans.

“The biggest issue with viewing and hunting is that bears get used to being around people and they no longer have that innate fear so it is really not fair to hunt them.”

And that’s what the debate about hunting here really comes down to — fairness, and values.

The BC government estimates there are around 15,000 grizzlies in the province. And hunters kill between 250 and 300 grizzlies per year in BC.

So they’re not endangered. It’s more that the social clock seems to be running out on commercial trophy hunting.

For the grizzlies along the Nekite River, humans certainly don’t seem to be a threat.

If Bo Diddley was afraid of us he didn’t show it. He seemed more concerned with where that female grizzly was headed.

From PRI’s The World ©2016 PRI

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Bipedal Bear’s Apparent Death Motivates Bear Hunt Opponents in New Jersey

 

New Jersey’s long-debated black bear hunts have stoked strong passions, blasted by animal rights activists as inhumane and supported by hunters and wildlife officials who say they help control the population and minimize run-ins with humans.

But the death of a bear presumed to be one that walked on two feet and became a social media darling has become a rallying cry for hunt opponents as they prepare to stage protests during the second segment of this year’s hunt, which starts Monday. It’s scheduled to run through Saturday, but officials said it could end early depending on how many bears are culled.

Pedals the bear first surfaced about two years ago in Jefferson Township. The bear walked with an unusual gait on his hind legs and was spotted ambling around neighborhoods. It also was caught on videos that were posted online and shown on national television.

Wildlife officials believe Pedals was killed during the expanded bear hunt staged in October. The Department of Environmental Protection released pictures showing the lifeless body of a black bear with injured paws, just like the ones Pedals had, but couldn’t confirm the identity because Pedals was never tagged.

Animal rights activists say the belief that Pedals is dead has motivated them and others to work even harder to end the hunt. Pedals was last seen on video in June.

“Our numbers have always been high, but the killing of Pedals has caused our support to increase,” said Janine Motta, programs director for the Bear Education And Resource program. The group has staged protests during previous hunts in New Jersey and plans similar events during the upcoming hunt.

“Here was one particular bear that people may have known, seen or just followed on Facebook. They felt a connection with Pedals,” Motta said. “When he was killed, it became personal for those who loved him, and that translated into a greater awareness of the hunt in general and the realization that all bears who are killed are important.”

New Jersey resumed state-regulated bear hunting in 2003 after a ban that lasted more than 30 years. Another hunt was held in 2005, and in 2010 the state instituted an annual hunt.

The expanded six-day hunting season took effect this year. Hunters were allowed to use only bows and arrows to during the first three days, and muzzle-loading guns were added during the second half.

This coming week’s hunt is for firearms only and runs concurrently with the six-day firearm season for deer. But wildlife officials anticipate the bear hunt will end early due to the harvest limit set in the state’s bear management policy.

Hunters harvested 562 bears during the expanded hunt, and 23.4 percent were previously tagged bears. This week’s hunt will be suspended once the cumulative harvest rate of tagged bears reaches 30 percent, officials said.

State wildlife officials have touted the annual hunt as an important part of controlling the bear population and minimizing run-ins with humans, particularly in the northern part of New Jersey known as bear country. They have estimated that 3,500 bears live in New Jersey north of Interstate 80, roughly the upper one-eighth of the state.

Critics have called the hunt brutal, cruel and ineffective. But James Doherty, a Toms River resident who has taken part in previous hunts, believes the critics are so focused on their cause that they don’t see why it’s needed.

“The stereotype of hunters is that we’re all gun nuts who like to kill things for the fun of it, but that’s not the case,” Doherty said. “Listen to the biologists, the experts- the hunt helps keep the bear population in control, and that’s very important. If the population gets too high, there’s not enough food for all of them, and it can lead to more bear-human interactions.”

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