New polling suggests rural-urban divide over BC grizzly hunt a myth

Photo credit: Sam Edmonds

Photo credit: Sam Edmonds

Thursday, March 30, 2017 - For years, the BC Liberals have written off the vast majority of residents in the province for their opposition to the grizzly bear hunt. In an attempt to divert attention away from this unethical slaughter, they have perpetuated the myth that a rural-urban divide exists on the issue – this could not be further from the truth.

This morning, Insights West and the Commercial Bear Viewing Association released polling data that suggests the majority of British Columbians living in rural ridings oppose the trophy hunting of grizzly bears. Specifically, the percentage of voters who are opposed to the trophy hunting of grizzly bears stands at 81% in Kamloops North Thompson, 79% in Boundary Similkameen, 78% in Fraser Nicola, 66% in Caribou North and 65% in Kootenay East.

As the BC Liberals’ justifications for the grizzly bear hunt continue to be challenged, we can expect them to fall back on their so-called, “sound science“, which is highly contested.

The province’s grizzly population numbers themselves are a point of debate, with government scientists relying heavily on an outdated and flawed population model that is believed to overestimate grizzly numbers. While they argue there are roughly 15,000 grizzlies throughout BC, independent scientists believe there could be as few as 6,000-8,000. Grizzlies have already been extirpated from roughly 18% of their original habitat across the province and 9 sub-populations are currently threatened with extirpation. Furthermore, a recent study found that the provincial government is failing to keep grizzly bear mortalities below its own targets. This combination of factors threatens to wipe out this iconic and ecologically-significant species. 

Ultimately, science itself, even if it were to be sound, doesn’t equate to permission to kill grizzly bears. In a province where 91% of residents are united in their opposition to the grizzly bear hunt, should our government be allowed to continue to ignore such strong and clear disapproval? Are they not obligated to represent the people?

As residents of British Columbia, we should question why the BC Liberals have consistently tried to dodge this issue and attempt to divide urban and rural voters. With an election on the horizon, we have an opportunity to make our voices heard. Utilize our new #TrophyFreeBC toolkit and join us in calling for a complete and total ban on BC’s grizzly bear hunt – contact Premier Christy Clark, your MLA and those running in your riding and let them know you will be voting for the party that commits to banning the hunt, once and for all. 

Provincial government expands controversial wolf kill program

Photo: Wendy Chambers

Photo: Wendy Chambers

In a move counter to science-based evidence and ethics, the BC Liberal government has again scapegoated wolves for the decline in caribou throughout the province. In a recent announcement, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations stated they will be expanding their highly controversial wolf kill program to the Revelstoke area.  

Wildlife Defence League (WDL) opposes the tax payer-funded wolf kill program, as it fails to address the root cause of caribou decline, which is habitat destruction. The kill program is also being used as a measure to avoid a federal caribou recovery plan that would impact industrial development in critical caribou habitat. In fact, Freedom of Information requests reveal that the provincial government was prompted by the forestry industry to implement the wolf kill program, in an effort to protect timber interests.

The BC Liberal government claims to have protected 2.2 million hectares of caribou habitat around the province. The reality though, is not so simple. Much of the 2.2 million hectares constitutes existing protections and is not the quality or elevation of habitat that caribou desperately need to recover. Instead, it’s often patches of forest between clearcuts, steep slopes or high elevation habitat. 

Meanwhile, mining, oil and gas development, recreational activity and logging of old-growth forests that are critical for caribou survival continues. Reports from the Revelstoke area confirm that caribou protections have not slowed down the harvesting of old-growth forest on public land in the region. A recent audit of logging in mountain caribou habitat by the Forest Practices Board (FPB), British Columbia's independent forestry investigation agency, found that none of the cut-blocks it reviewed had ever been logged before. According to estimates from two timber companies and the FPB, the province will be cutting virgin timber for the next 30 to 40 years before a significant number of stands are ready for a second cut. 

So, when the provincial government falls back on their “2.2 million hectares” statistic, they are talking about quantity, not quality.

Additionally, a recently released joint study between the provincial and federal government examined the impact of forestry, oil and gas and mining on caribou populations in the Tumbler Ridge area of BC, where the province has killed 227 wolves since the launch of their wolf kill program there in 2015. The study found that disturbance of caribou habitat in the region has far outpaced the 35% maximum disturbance target set by the federal government as the recovery strategy threshold. In the Pine River and Quintette area, for example, 62% of low elevation habitat is already disturbed. 

Moreover, the use of aerial gunning and strangling snares through the wolf kill program is incredibly inhumane and leads to prolonged suffering and death. Last winter, our Never Cry Wolf initiative also exposed the government’s use of a “Judas wolf tactic”, whereby an individual wolf is collared and tracked back to his/her pack, only to see pack members gunned down from a helicopter. The collared wolf is left alive in order to lead government snipers to more wolves, should he/she find a new pack. 

Ethically and ecologically, killing one species to save another is misguided. WDL is calling on the BC Liberal government to take genuine habitat protection and restoration measures to conserve caribou and to end their reliance on ineffective and inhumane predator management strategies.