Senseless bear killing incenses First Nations
"Oh yeah. We've seen your sign," a group of hunters including one NHL player reportedly told a Heiltsuk native from Bella Bella, after taking photos with an adult grizzly bear they'd just shot dead and decapitated.
The "sign" in question is a giant notice welcoming visitors to the Great Bear Rainforest, asking them to "please respect our traditional law" and not engage in trophy hunting.
But National Hockey League player Clayton Stoner, a 28-year-old defenceman with the Minnesota Wild, shot the bear despite allegedly having seen the sign.
The incident happened last May, but still touches a nerve with people who are campaigning to protect wild bears from recreational hunting. Their voices are documented in a film, Bear Witness, filmed by BC's coastal First Nations.
"I was devastated. I was hoping to save [the bear's] life," said Jason Moody of the Nuxalk Nation.
"The idea of trophy hunting, I really don't understand. Flying out into these wonderful areas and searching for these majestic bears that are nowhere else in the world, just to shoot them? I don't get it. I only hunt or fish for food, and that's the way I think it should be."
As controversy over the bear hunting, blew up, some people defended the NHL player, saying he never broke any laws and should not be criticized for hunting. Stoner fired back at his critics, saying that he'd hunted the bear under a license.
"I grew up hunting and fishing in British Columbia and continue to enjoy spending time with my family outdoors," he said in a statement.
"I applied for and received a grizzly bear hunting licence through a British Columbia limited-entry lottery last winter and shot a grizzly bear with my licence while hunting with my father, uncle and a friend in May. I love to hunt and fish and will continue to do so with my family and friends in British Columbia."
Some locals, however, oppose the practice of trophy hunting because it doesn't benefit the local economy compared to the tourism brought in by having live bears and wildlife in the area.
Nine First Nations have banned the trophy hunt for bears in their territories, and have set up a petition requesting people to respect their call for no more trophy hunting on their land.