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The C.A.S.H. Courier Newsletter

Summer-Fall 2012 Issue
First Nations of British Columbia Ban Bear Hunting

By E.M. Fay

Photo by Marni Grossman:

First Nations Indian bear huntWith great scenic beauty and a wide variety of wildlife, British Columbia is well known as an attractive destination for wildlife tourism. The provincial government welcomes revenue of hundreds of millions of dollars annually, whether visitors are there for the peaceful pastime of wildlife watching or the more sinister activity of killing the native animals.

Bears in particular are big business for B.C., as hunters consider them an especially prestigious “trophy.” The bears have a traditional ally, however, people who have long respected these magnificent animals and are now speaking up for them in a meaningful way.

Recently, a coalition of ten First Nations communities, whose lands extend along BC’s central and northern coasts, ordered a ban on bear hunting in their territory. The leader of one of these Nations, Chief Doug Neasloss of the Kitasoo Xai’xais, stated that the ban is for both conservation of the bears and public safety.

First Nations feel that the only justification for killing animals is self-defense or subsistence. These are not the motives of hunters, however, who seek to gratify some cruel or self-aggrandizing aspect of their own natures.

Another important point being made by First Nations representatives is that hunters usually go after the larger, likely genetically-superior bears, which naturally weakens the gene pool in the general population of bears.

Not surprisingly, bear hunting guides are opposed to the ban, fearing loss of income. Unfortunately, the provincial government of BC is also against the ban, as they profit from allowing 300 grizzlies to be killed annually, among other hunting horrors.

Knowing how disrespectful hunters can be, we asked Chief Neasloss if it was difficult to keep them off the Coastal Nations’ land, and were told that they do often barge right in. But Nation members patrol the area, both in the forests and along the coast.

“We have Coastal Guardian Watchmen with eleven boats in the water. All ten communities patrol the coastline from Prince Rupert to the north end of Vancouver Island.”

The Coastal First Nations alliance includes the Wuikinuxv Nation, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xaixais, Nuxalk, Gitga’at, Haisla, Metlakatla, Old Massett, Skidegate, and Council of the Haida Nation.

Regarding the dispute with the provincial government, Chief Neasloss said, “Despite years of effort by the Coastal First Nations to find a resolution to this issue with the province, the senseless and brutal trophy hunt continues.”

They do not want to have to go to court over this conflict, but it is a possibility if the provincial government continues to deny the First Nations’ sovereign right to protect their own land.

Jessie Housty, Councillor for the Heiltsuk Nation, added, “It’s not a part of our culture to kill an animal for sport and hang them on a wall.”

Hunters often kill bears when they are most vulnerable, foraging along the water’s edge. And there is always the danger that they may unintentionally kill a black bear who carries the rare recessive gene of the Kermode Spirit Bear, an animal sacred to many First Nations. For these and other reasons, the ban on hunting is a wise idea.

Some assistance with the ban has come from the non-profit Raincoast Conservation Foundation, who are also opposed to hunting. They announced on September 15th that they had purchased the commercial hunting rights over 3500 square kilometers on BC’s central coast from a guide outfitter to protect the bears in that region. Their ownership of these hunting territories is in perpetuity.

RCF wants to help First Nations and others with the economic opportunities offered by harmless wildlife watching. Executive Director Chris Genovali said, “Ecological issues aside, the coastal trophy bear hunt cannot be justified from either an ethical or economic perspective.” Visit RCF at: www.raincoast.org

Regarding the proposed ban, public support could be helpful. As Chief Neasloss said, “Our first priority is to get the word out to people.”

C.A.S.H. is grateful to the First Nations communities who are taking this significant step towards protecting bears from the vile hunters who have no respect for the individual lives they take.

Learn more about the wildlife of BC and see some amazing photographs by Chief Neasloss at: http://www.dougneasloss.com/index.html


E.M. Fay is a journalist who specializes in environment and wildlife. She is Assoc. Editor of the C.A.S.H. Courier and the Wildlife Watch Binocular.


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