After 11 years of bringing you local reporting, the team behind the Vancouver Observer has moved on to Canada's National Observer. You can follow Vancouver culture reporting over there from now on. Thank you for all your support over the years!
This Article is part of the Trophy Hunt special report See the full report

B.C. gov't approved grizzly hunt despite overwhelming public opposition, emails reveal

A Freedom of Information investigation of 1,600 pages of government memos shows wildlife bureaucrats bristling against public criticisms of the re-opening of two grizzly hunts in 2014.

(Page 2 of 2)

Chronology of emails

Jun. 25, 2013 - Provincial analyst Stephen MacIver asks a government biologist to prepare notes justifying the re-opening of the grizzly hunt:  “We know the hunt is controversial, there will be opposition."

Provincial biologist Pat Dielman replies: “I am tired of NGO’s [non-governmental organizations] always saying grizzly bears are threatened or vulnerable when the reality is the opposite."

Sept. 25, 2013 — Dielman sends a proposal to re-open grizzly hunts.

Oct. 28, 2013 — An external non-government biologist asks if her data was being wildly misinterpreted by the province.  Dielman replies: “We only treated your project’s data the same as anecdotal info because we are aware of its limitations."

Oct. 28, 2013 — Provincial wildlife manager Mike Ramsay summarizes those supporting the hunt's re-opening: "the forest industry, BC Wildlife Federation, Ranchers around Big Creek, and Guide Outfitters of BC.”  (Strike outs in original.)

Oct.28, 2013 — a St’at’imc First Nation official says he’s “perplexed” by the province’s proposal to re-open the trophy hunt.

Oct.29, 2013 — David Williams, Friends of the Nemaiah Valley writes government: "We see absolutely no room in this area whatsoever for a legitimate grizzly bear [Limited Entry Hunt]....We are highly dubious of the ministry population counts in this area.”

Nov. 2013 — Alberta wildlife photographer: "I've made many trips to B.C. and spent my hard earned cash on accommodations, restaurants, car rentals and fuel purchases....I'll be watching this issue very closely before deciding where to spend my future travel dollars."

Nov. 2013 —German Tourist: "If I would want to see a stuffed grizzly bear, I could do so in a German museum at negligible cost. I am appalled by your proposal to re-open the trophy hunt for Grizzly bears in the Chilcotin.... Our tourist dollars benefit a large population of people across the region, while the trophy hunt satisfies the needs of a handful of individuals." 

Nov. 6, 2013 — A SFU / UVic study doubting the accuracy of the provincial government’s grizzly counts is picked up by the Canadian Press and the Globe and Mail.

Nov. 8, 2013 — a 40-year-veteran of the BC Forest Service urged the province to not ignore the science on grizzly bear numbers. 

Nov. 11, 2013 — a U.S. biologist known for helping the “de-listing of the Yellowstone grizzly” offers advice to government wildlife managers on how to handle negative media reports:  "Reading this paper...will help you focus on what the criticisms are."

Nov. 12, 2013 — Provincial scientist Bruce McLellan reacts to negative media reports: “The Canadian Press sure lapped it up, anything critical of the GB [grizzly bear] hunt gets top billing.”  

Dec. 3, 2013 — Provincial biologist Pat Dielman, who sent a proposal to re-open the grizzly hunt, tells a bear biologist with a non-profit that he cannot provide grizzly data.  "I don't have a copy of full population model.  Regions receive a summary of the model results…”

Dec. 4, 2013 — Wildlife director John Krebs asks colleagues for help responding to grizzly hunt critics: "Do you have some standard messaging about B.C.'s grizzly bear management that I can recycle in a response to the inquiry?" 

Dec. 8, 2013 — Liberal Minister Steve Thomson: “We are getting some press over the proposed grizzly regs that have gone up on our website.  Can some one make sure Minister Bill Bennett is fully briefed and aware of this.  Thanks.”

Dec. 9, 2013 — Ray Morello, a provincial wildlife manager, advises that each guided grizzly kill brings in up to $30,000 to the local economy.  He says he believes Minister Bill Bennett has been informed.

Dec. 10, 2013 — Wildlife manager Gerry MacDougall asks if a Bill Bennett briefing should explore the benefits of an uptick in grizzlies for mining:

“[By] all accounts there’s a few critters to spare, but my question is whether they might be kept handy to help mitigate a new mine.” 

Dec. 17, 2013 -  Dielman, provincial wildlife biologist, complains to an analyst that map boundaries for bear zones are not based on evidence: 

“The problem is no one every updates anything in this ministry.  We draw an arbitrary line based on our best guess and it remains fixed for 30 years."

Dec. 17, 2013 — A St’at’timc biologist writes to the province, questioning “unexplained doubling of [bear] population estimates.”

Dec. 17, 2013 - Briefing note for Minister Steve Thomson shows the grizzly totals in the Cariboo region are a guess, not a count: "derived from modelling and professional opinion. There have been no DNA or other inventory studies conducted in this area."

Dec. 19, 2013 — Wayne McCrory, a professional biologist with a non-profit, writes that the province’s method for estimating bears is “very flawed.”   Among his complaints — an under appreciation of how new roads lead to increased bear kills:

“If you really studied the true human caused mortality of grizzly bear in the region you would likely find there is no 'surplus' left over for any hunt."

Dec. 20, 2013 — Facing criticism, Dielman agrees to increase the unreported kill estimate to two per cent to demonstrate that "we listened and acted" on concerns.  He says to colleagues the change would have almost no effect on the allowable kills. 

Jan. 3, 2014 — Forestry staff discuss a briefing note for Bill Bennett: “Most [public] concerns have focused on the social acceptability of the grizzly hunt rather than the sustainability of the hunt.”

Jan. 7, 2014 — Energy and Mining Minister Bill Bennett was given a 22-minute phone briefing on the proposed grizzly hunt by forestry staff, says e-mail. Forestry Minister Steve Thomson “was not on the call.”  Summary of conversation redacted. 

Jan. 13, 2014 — Briefing note for Minister Thomson: “The Guide Outfitter Association of BC, the BC Wildlife Federation, and the BC Trappers Association support the opening of these areas to grizzly bear hunting.”

Jan. 24, 2014 —Notes show Minister Steve Thomson formally re-opened the grizzly hunt in the Cariboo and Kootenay regions.

March 3, 2014 — After the decision to re-open the hunts, director Gerry MacDougall asks a wildlife manager “to prepare an estimates notes on grizzly, regarding the opening of the hunt… [with] perhaps some numbers to justify the decision, etc.”

More in News

Views from a refugee camp: Who gets into heaven?

I have just returned to Vancouver Island from Greek refugee camps where I met a Yazidi man named Jason who told me about his escape from ISIS in Iraq.   His story begins on a desert road where a...

Vancouver's bicycle sharing grows as 15 new stations installed

Mobi bicycle by Shaw Go in Vancouver. Photo by Christopher Porter from Flickr Creative Commons

International Women's Day Concert celebrates female musicians who turned tragedy into triumph

Every March 8, on International Women's Day, we hear about the achievements of brilliant, talented women around the world. But how often do we learn about the physical and mental disabilities or...
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.

Special reports

Trophy hunt, BC bear hunt, grizzly hunt

Trophy Hunt

Ninety percent of B.C. opposes it. The government permits it. Caught in the deadly trap between public opinion and policy are BC's bears. Our award-winning team looks at the personalities and...