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BCWF: Open Letter to First Nations People living on the North & Central Coast

February 11, 2010

It has been brought to the attention of BC Wildlife Federation that a number of Coastal First Nation Bands have formed a consortium going by the name of “Coastal First Nations”. See for more information. Does this Coastal First Nations group represent all First Nations members along the entire Coast? Ordinarily we would not get involved in the business of First Nations people or their relationship with the BC Government; however in this case an effort is being made by the consortium to virtually eliminate residents’ long and established cultural right to hunt.

It is troubling to us that after speaking to numerous First Nations people living in Prince Rupert, no one was aware of the consortium or their efforts to end bear hunting on the North and Central Coast. In addition, none of the First Nations people we spoke with were opposed to bear hunting if it is done in a sustainable manner. In fact, some of the people we spoke with either hunted bears or had a family member who hunted bears.

The intent of this letter is to encourage you to ask a number of questions.

Have you been properly consulted by those who claim to represent your interest? It is our belief that First Nations people living on the North and Central Coast hunted bears traditionally for food, clothing and tool-making material. What right do those who claim to represent you have to restrict future generations of First Nations people from hunting bear?

Residents in British Columbia and Canada have a long history of hunting and trapping for fur and for meat. It is a part of our heritage and our culture stemming back to the early days of the Hudson’s Bay Company and before.

For the benefit of those that don’t know, we wish to explain how the Ministry of Environment establishes the annual allowable harvest of bears and how the hunts are managed.

The Ministry of Environment conducts random surveys along with identifying the different types of habitats available for bears. A population is established for each bear population area. There is a harvest percentage provided for each population unit. Hunting only occurs where the population can sustain a harvest over time. Hunting for bears can occur in either the spring or fall. Black bears are estimated at 120,000 to 160,000 animals in the province. White or blue coloured phases of black bears are not hunted.

Grizzly bears, because of their population numbers (approximately 16,000), are only hunted through Limited Entry Hunting for residents or quota system for non-residents. The current licensed harvest rate is approximately 2% of the population. Natural population recruitment is typically 6% – 8%.

There is a scientific, peer reviewed, Grizzly Bear Harvest Management Policy that guides all grizzly bear hunting opportunity. This strategy was developed by independent scientists not working for the Ministry. It has many special safeguards including vast no hunting areas to ensure that grizzly bears will not be over hunted as conservation is always the first priority.

It has been expressed by the “Coastal First Nations” consortium that they have an interest in pursuing commercialized bear viewing. Members of BC Wildlife Federation have concerns about this unregulated activity. We believe that all wild animals should remain wild and not become habituated or dependant on humans to live. Habituation means that an animal loses its instinct to avoid humans and no longer acts in a natural way or looses its ability to forage naturally. We have always commented that commercial bear viewing can occur but should not cause the habituation of any animals. The habituation of bears leads to their inevitable demise. For example, a habituated bear who wanders into a schoolyard because it has become accustomed to human interaction, or looks for easy food, becomes a public safety issue and will be destroyed and disposed of at the expense of the taxpayers of this province.

BCWF looks for positive solutions where there is a tolerance for each other’s views and opportunities. All hunters need to respect each other’s needs and continue to promote sustainable hunting. Commercial bear viewing needs to be properly regulated to avoid habituation and conflict with others. Those who choose not to hunt need to respect the cultural and traditional importance to those who do.

Yours in conservation,

Mel Arnold, President
BC Wildlife Federation
Unit 101 – 3060 Norland Avenue
Burnaby, BC V5B 3A6
Telephone: 604-291-9990 Fax: 604-291-9933
Toll Free: 1-888-881 BCWF (2293)

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