The CBVA rebuttal to GOABC's "Did You Know" document on grizzly bear trophy hunting
IN THE MATTER OF HUNTING GRIZZLY BEARS: THE SCIENCE AND THE GUIDE OUTFITTERS ASSOCIATION OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
This document was compiled in collaboration with Dr. Melanie Clapham, postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Victoria in response to the Guide Outfitters Association of British Columbia’s (GOABC) “DID YOU KNOW” document on grizzly bears and grizzly bear hunting.
The GOABC claims: British Columbia (BC) boasts the highest population of grizzly bears in North America.
The science says: Alaska has a population of about 30,000 grizzly bears, compared to estimates for the whole of Canada of about 25,000 (IUCN 2008).
The GOABC claims: Hunting only accounts for 2% of the total human-caused grizzly bear mortality in British Columbia.
The science says: From 2004 to 2009, the total human-caused mortality for grizzly bears in BC was 2,138 (including hunting, animal control, illegal kills, and vehicle & railway collisions). Over the same period, resident and non-resident hunters combined killed on average 297 bears per year (Ministry of Environment 2010). An average of 69% of all bear mortalities in 2004-2009 was caused by hunting. Since 1976 an average of 340 bears were killed in BC each year from human causes. Hunters were responsible for on average 87% of those killed  (Environmental Reporting BC 2012).
The GOABC claims: One of the biggest threats to grizzly survival and human safety is the habituation of bears by humans. This is because most habituated bears must be euthanized.
The science says: It is important to make the distinction between habituated bears and food-conditioned bears. Habituated bears show increased tolerance towards people; they view people as neutral stimuli, receiving no positive (i.e., food) or negative (i.e., harm/harassment) effects from being in relatively close proximity to people. There is no evidence to suggest that habituated bears come into conflict with people more often than non-habituated bears. Alternatively, food-conditioned bears associate people with a positive reward (food) and are potentially dangerous bears.
The GOABC claims: All British Columbians want a healthy grizzly bear population, and hunting is an effective tool to help manage the bear population.
The science says: A recent study (Artelle et al. 2016) showed that hunting bears had no measurable effect on conflict patterns, suggesting that hunting is a poor management tool for reducing human-bear conflicts. Additionally, recent polls suggest that more than 90 percent of British Columbians oppose the grizzly bear hunt.
The GOABC claims: Hunting provides important data and knowledge regarding bears.
The science says: Akin to Japanese whaling for ‘scientific research’, modern research practices do not require subjects to be killed for them to be studied. Non-invasive research techniques are now becoming one of the most common ways to study large mammals, and can provide data on movement patterns, reproduction, behaviour, population dynamics and also population estimates.
The GOABC claims: It is important to keep grizzly bears wild (with a fear of people) to keep both the bears and people safe.
The science says: Bears which are more tolerant of people are less likely to behave aggressively if their personal space is violated (Smith et al., 2005). Habituated bears have a smaller personal space (or ‘overt reaction distance’ (Herrero et al. 2005)) than non-habituated bears. However, both habituated, and nonhabituated bears will behave defensively if they feel threatened.
The GOABC claims: Are grizzly bears an endangered species? Grizzly bears are not endangered. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) classifies grizzly bears as a species of “Special Concern” which indicates that they are neither threatened nor endangered, but are sensitive to changes in habitat.
The science says: The COSEWIC classification of ‘Special Concern’ is defined as “a wildlife species that may become threatened or endangered because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats” (COSEWIC 2015). Grizzly bears as a species were reclassified from ‘Not at Risk’ to ‘Special Concern’ in 2012, indicating an increased conservation concern since their original designation in 1979.
The GOABC claims: More bears are killed in Yellowstone National Park than the Great Bear Rainforest. The Yellowstone population estimate is 600-700 grizzly bears, and 59 grizzly bears were killed in 2015 (8.5% human-caused mortality).
The science says: Yellowstone National Park and the Great Bear Rainforest are completely different ecosystems, with vastly different human and land use, both commercial and recreational. Yellowstone NP hosts 4 million visitors per year, with multiple roads and trail access throughout the park. The two sites are incomparable. 2015 was a poor food year for bears in Yellowstone, increasing their vulnerability to conflict with humans.
The GOABC claims: The Great Bear Rainforest has a population estimate of 7,000 grizzly bears but only an average of 9 bears per year are harvested by hunters (BC residents and guided clients combined).
The science says: The BC government estimate the population of grizzly bears within the Great Bear Rainforest to be approximately 2,000 bears (Ministry of Environment 2010). Out of an average of 24 mortalities per year, hunters were responsible for 13 bears killed (Ministry of Environment 2010).
The GOABC writes: Why should we continue hunting grizzly bears in British Columbia? Hunting is an internationally recognized tool to manage all species of wildlife including grizzly bears. History has shown that when wildlife populations are not managed to balance social, economic and environmental considerations, wildlife can become problematic and no longer retain value. When this occurs, humans typically eliminate the problem, which can have significant negative impact on an individual species. This is even more pronounced when dealing with large carnivores like grizzly bears.
The science says: There is abundant literature from North America and Europe on the negative effects of hunting grizzly bears as a management tool. The hunting of adult male grizzly bears is suggested to negatively affect cub survival through increased infanticide and reduced reproduction (Wielgus & Bunnell 1994; Swenson et al. 2001, 2003). Additionally, there is no evidence to suggest that removing adult male grizzly bears from a population results in higher cub survival (McLellan 1994; Miller et al. 2003). Adult male bears, the target for trophy hunters, are extremely important individuals. Older and larger male bears, in particular, are selected by females for mating (Bellemain et al. 2006) and have higher reproductive success (Zedrosser et al. 2007). Removing these males may in time lead to smaller, younger and less genetically fit individuals dominating the breeding pool, compromising the viability of populations.
The GOABC claims: Large grizzly bear sanctuaries, conservative hunting measures and large swaths of wilderness areas bode well for the future of grizzly bears.
The science says: The future for grizzly bears in BC is uncertain. A report commissioned by the Independent Scientific Panel on Grizzly Bears for the Government of British Columbia (2002) states that there is a “50% chance that grizzly bear populations will decline at rates exceeding 20% over 30 years….if enforcement of hunting regulations cannot be improved and non-hunter mortalities reduced, then it is only through a reduction in quota that grizzly bear populations can be modelled sustainably.”