Dear BC Election Candidates,
Meet “Apple”, one of British Columbia’s iconic grizzly bears - much like the bears featured in the province’s Destination BC tourism advertisements, which promote the province as “Super, Natural”.
Just one glance at a photo of Apple and you can see why she quickly became a favourite of locals and tourists alike, with people coming from all over to view this magnificent bear as well as portraits of her gracing local galleries, cafes and even the cover of the Wall Street Journal. Local photographer, Jim Lawrence, was one of those individuals fortunate enough to spend time with Apple over the years. He described her as wise, well-adjusted, comical and an ambassador for her species.
For at least 12 years, Apple taught many of us about bear behaviour and coexistence. She offered a rare glimpse into the life of her species, even providing fans with the privilege of watching her raise cubs. Time and time again, guests of a local bear viewing business were left in awe of Apple and with a new appreciation of this often misunderstood species.
Sadly, there are others who value and interact with grizzlies quite differently. With permission from the government, these individuals embark into BC’s wild places, intent on proving their hunting prowess by gunning down a grizzly. In 2015, Apple crossed paths with one such grizzly hunter, who selfishly took her life for nothing more than a trophy. This, despite reassurances from hunters that they only target old male bears. Tragically, Apple’s two young cubs were left to fend for themselves and were spotted wandering aimlessly some time afterward, until eventually they too were gone.
As with most British Columbians, the senseless slaughter of Apple and the resulting death of her cubs, along with the annual killing of approximately 300 other grizzlies, does not sit well with me. In fact, roughly 90% of residents, myself included, oppose the hunt and support legislation to ban it. This vulnerable species has been extirpated from most of its historical range, with British Columbia as one of its last strongholds. Grizzlies face many complex pressures that threaten their survival, including food scarcity and habitat fragmentation and destruction due to human activity. While we must approach grizzly protection holistically, the most logical and feasible first step towards addressing pressures on this species is to end the grizzly hunt.
While it may be all too easy for you to ignore polls, science and statistics, and to detach yourself from the seemingly far-removed impact of the government’s grizzly hunt, I urge you to consider Apple and her cubs, and the many bears just like them who needlessly suffer because of it. They are not out of sight, out of mind for the vast majority of British Columbians, certainly not during this election. Nor should they be for you as you seek the support of voters. Should voters elect you into office, it will become your responsibility to represent their interests, including bringing about an end to BC’s grizzly hunt.