B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan has handled one of their most divisive wildlife issues in the state by promising his administration will end the prize grizzly bear hunt if elected next spring.
Hoping to win broad support for a policy which could possibly be a tough sell in rural ridings, Mr. Horgan is proposing to make it illegal to kill a grizzly for its head and mask, but legal to shoot one for its meat.
“It is not about being compared to hunting. It is about being in relation to this grizzly bear trophy hunt and only the grizzly bear trophy hunt,” Mr. Horgan said in a press conference on Thursday.
He admitted that if hunting grizzly bears to get food is permitted, trophy hunting may continue, because folks may be able to go around the ban with the bear meat house.
But he said regulations could make such abuse unlikely.
Meanwhile, the New Democrats banned grizzly hunting if they were in government in 2000, but dropped support in rural ridings. The Liberals swept to power in the 2001 election and finished the ban.
Mr. Horgan said he believes that a beautifully crafted ban on the trophy hunt would have broad support, including one of hunters.
“The people of British Columbia are in relation to this trophy hunt of grizzly bears. That has been made abundantly evident in poll after poll after poll,” he said. “I think as we go into another election, it is important the people of British Columbia realize that New Democrats stand against the hunting of grizzly bears to get charms.”
But Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson rejected the NDP program, saying it is not feasible and is not based on wildlife science.
“The problem with this is it is the NDP trying to be everything to all people. I’m not sure how they manage a procedure where they call for a ban on trophy hunting and continue to allow hunting [to get meat,” he said. “It is sort of a hollow promise. In reality, there’ll be several opportunities for the hunt to last.”
He said that the Liberals will continue to allow trophy hunting in areas in which the bear population is wholesome.
Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver said the NDP didn’t support him if he proposed laws to limit the trophy hunt by demanding all of hunters to execute the meat once they destroy a bear.
“I’m grateful they have reproduced what I’ve completed, but where were they pulled in that private members bill a couple of years ago?” He inquired.
Mr. Weaver said if his bill was adopted, then it would have effectively finished the trophy hunt, because few people are thinking about grizzly bear meat.
Jesse Zeman, a schedule supervisor of this B.C. Wildlife Federation, said hunters who shoot grizzly bears for food should be permitted to continue.
“It is good,” he said of bear meat.
He said that the BCWF, that represents about 50,000 hunters and anglers, supports demanding hunters to keep the meat of animals they shoot.
Ian McAllister, executive director of the conservation group Pacific Wild, called the NDP proposal “a step in the perfect direction” because it targets trophy hunting.
But he stated letting bears to be hunted for their meat has been a error.
“We think this is just a loophole to keep the prize hunt under the guise of food hunting,” he said.
Scott Ellis, executive director of the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C., said that the NDP strategy is not based on scientific wildlife management.
“We are disgusted when politics gets [priority] above mathematics,” he said.
Mr. Ellis’s organization represents hunting guides, lots of whom offer a prize grizzly hunt for about $14,000.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of all B.C. Indian Chiefs mentioned that the NDP is doing the ideal thing.
“It’s barbaric simply to shoot an animal for the head,” he said.
B.C. has a estimated 15,000 grizzly bears. Hunters kill about 250 a year.
Joe Foy, a manager of the Wilderness Committee, praised the NDP coverage, saying tens of thousands of bears have been taken since the Liberals raised the hunting ban.
Practice Mark Hume on Twitter: @markhumeglobe