Government data reveals hundreds of B.C. grizzlies killed by humans in 2010
New government data shows that more than 300 grizzly bears were killed in British Columbia last year, mostly as a result of trophy hunting. Released by the David Suzuki Foundation at the start of B.C.'s spring bear hunt, official government records indicate 317 grizzlies died at the hands of humans in 2010. Almost four out of five of these deaths were attributed to the legal trophy hunting of grizzly bears.
"British Columbia is one of the last safe havens for grizzlies in North America, however, these bears are consistently threatened by human activity such as resource extraction and trophy hunting," said Dr. Faisal Moola, Director of Terrestrial Conservation and Science at the David Suzuki Foundation.
The number of grizzlies killed last year is slightly less than previous years (an average of 339 bears have been killed annually since 1976). However, research conducted by provincial government biologists indicates that up to 100 per cent more bears are killed by humans than are officially reported, largely as a result of illegal poaching. This means grizzly mortality for 2010 may be up to double what the government records indicate.
Grizzly bears have already been eliminated or are currently threatened in 18 per cent of the province, including the Lower Mainland and most of the Interior. In an effort to protect the remaining grizzlies, the David Suzuki Foundation is calling on the provincial government to work with First Nations and others to implement a network of Grizzly Bear Management Areas (GBMAs) as part of its stated commitment to protect grizzlies across B.C.
"What we're calling for are essentially "bear parks" – big areas where grizzlies can feed, breed and roam away from the threat of human activity," said Dr. Moola. "Industrial development and roads would be strictly controlled, and trophy hunting would be off-limits in these designated areas. They would also be connected through undeveloped corridors that allow grizzlies to move across the landscape, which is key to their survival."
The David Suzuki Foundation's recommendation for expanded protection for grizzlies received the support of professional bear biologist Wayne McCrory, whose work with the Valhalla Wilderness Society helped to establish Canada's only grizzly bear sanctuary in the Khutzeymateen Valley in the Great Bear Rainforest. The sanctuary is co-managed by the Tsimshian Nation and the province.
"I was part of the government's first Grizzly Bear Scientific Advisory Committee that recommended the B.C. government reduce human-caused mortality and provide better habitat protection for bears," McCrory said. "I'm disappointed that the science-based solutions we recommended, such as new Grizzly Bear Management Areas where no hunting would be allowed, have not been adequately implemented to date. Consequently, the survival of B.C.'s grizzlies is in jeopardy."
Most human-caused grizzly bear mortality is a result of legal trophy hunting, poaching, human-bear conflicts, and collisions with trains and vehicles. Indirect causes of bear mortality include habitat destruction (industrial, recreational and urban development in places bears frequent), habitat fragmentation (road building that interferes with bear movement between habitat patches), and increasing motorized access into grizzly bear habitat, which results in more human-bear conflicts.
The David Suzuki Foundation obtained its grizzly mortality data from the B.C. Fish and Wildlife Branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. This government agency has maintained an annual record of human-caused grizzly bear deaths since the 1970s as part of its Compulsory Inspection Database. British Columbia recently established three no-hunting reserves for grizzly bears, called GBMAs, in the Great Bear Rainforest at the request of conservationists and First Nations. The David Suzuki Foundation believes this is an important step, and is encouraging the government to meet its commitment for other no-hunting reserves in the rest of B.C., including management zones in the south and interior of the province, where records show most bears are being killed.