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Grizzly Bear Trophy Hunts Continue in British Columbia's Wilds

cave bear


Humans myths are filled with stories of big bears. Early religions were bear cults, our ancestors probably dressed in the skins and heads of bears dancing around fires. We can only guess, but ritualized graves of bears have been found around the world, where bears existed.

The Cave bears may have terrified nomadic hunter-gatherer groups, or not (there's some debate that the bears were vegetarian) but to kill one would have been a group effort using spears and stones and stone knives. The tribe would've celebrated both the kill, the food and clothing the bear provided, and the spirit of the bear in a festive ceremony. To kill a bear today with a telescopic sight from hundreds of metres away is a cowardly act in comparison, without much merit or reason to celebrate at all.


The grizzly bear below (photographed by Rick O'Neill) is a similar size to the Cave Bear, which roamed Europe as far east as Russia during the last ice age. The species, which had an enormous head and jaws, died out about 18,000 years ago, but bear cults didn't, and North American Native cultures are filled with myths involving great bears. The Grizzly bear was one of the central figures.

grizzlyIn 2007 over four hundred of these magnificent creatures were slaughtered. The BC provincial government statistics show that in fact 430 grizzly bears were killed. In an average year 300 are slaughtered. The province's estimate of 13,000 grizzlies is an estimate, but considering that the west coast mountains of North America is the only habitat left to the species that once roamed the continent, that percentage is a large and unnecessary number to kill.

Like the wolf, the bear in European societies was demonized, which is why most western European countries have few wolves or bears (although they are trying to reintroduce them to western Europe). The First Nations people respected the bear, took names from bears, had bear clans and totems, and above all passed on bear stories and legends from generation to generation.

So we hunt these animals as trophies, or as bounties, to extinction because of these irrational, hereditary fears we have of potentially dangerous wild animals. And we "should have a healthy respect, as they are at the top of the food chain," says Chris Genovali, of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation. "People get frightened or unnerved about being in proximity to these animals. The thing is, we're a much bigger danger to them than they are to us."

Genovali is leading campaigns to stop bear trophy hunting in BC, and says that the grizzly bears hunted in coastal BC are "sitting targets to be shot and killed for sport in our parks and protected areas. [It] is not only anachronistic from a wildlife management perspective, but is ethically lamentable."

The man who took the photo of the Grizzly in this article - Rick O'Neill - used to be a hunter, until one day he realized the only reason he went hunting (for deer, not bear) was to be in the wilds, so he bought a camera and started to take photos of the animals he loved to watch. That surely is the best trophy.


Fortunately in BC we have preserved some habitat for bears. We have the Great Bear Rainforest between Knight Inlet north to Bella Bella to the Alaskan border. On Princess Royal Island the Kermode bears are protected in the New Spirit Bear Conservancy. The Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear sanctuary was opened in 1994 and is northeast of Prince Rupert. However it is only 45,000 hectares in size with only 50 or so bears.



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