Protect Great Bear Rainforest creatures from trophy hunters and pipelines
Bear viewing is now generating 10 times the amount of money that hunting brings in and supplies far more jobs, and the vast majority of British Columbians oppose trophy hunting. So where is the political will to protect the Great Bear Rainforest from trophy hunters and other threats?
When Raven made the world, he sought out Black Bear, the keeper of dreams and memory, and Black Bear agreed that every one in 10 Black Bears would be white, the Spirit Bears, to remind us of the times when the Earth was covered in nothing but ice and snow. They are a symbol of peace and harmony. In return for Black Bear’s help, Raven made the Great Bear Rainforest, where he promised the bears would live in peace for all time.
– Tshimshian Legend
I was recently lucky enough to attend a photo essay on the Great Bear Rainforest hosted by Raincoast, a charity dedicated to protecting the Great Bear. It was beyond moving to see so many ethereal pictures of Grizzlies, Black Bears, and Spirit Bears in their natural habitat – mothers and baby cubs swimming through estuaries, peacefully eating grass, or resourcefully catching salmon.
These majestic creatures seemed to completely ignore the interloping cameramen (and camerawomen) who floated in river crafts to watch them. The bears have gotten used to the boats, and seem to regard them as logs floating down the river, affording the viewers a life-changing experience of communion with the Great Bear.
Photo of Spirit Bear by Andrew S. Wright
Every year, patrons pay a handsome price for the experience of money to come for this experience. Bear viewing is now generating 10 times the amount of money that hunting brings in and supplies far more jobs, particularly in First Nations communities.
Threats faced by the Great Bear Rainforest
And yet, these otherworldly beings and their cousins, the grizzlies, are in grave danger from multiple angles, such as pipeline disasters and trophy hunting. Hunting and pollution cannot coincide with a bear viewing economy and, just or more importantly, a healthy ecosystem.
Each year approximately 300 bears, black and grizzly, are murdered for their heads and paws. The most sought after 'prizes' are the grand-daddy bears that father many cubs (Grizzlies reproduce later in life and produce few cubs), and when they are killed, new males may take over their territory and cull the cubs; the consort females of the killed older males and cubs avoid these new males and move off the territory to areas where conditions are more difficult for cub-rearing. Therefore, the population suffers the loss of more than just the human-killed bears; more heart breaking when one considers that. Even more upsetting is the notion that this is not hunting to feed one's family. Instead, it's killing for sport.
Black bear cubs. Photo by Andrew S. Wright