On August 14, 2017, the newly elected NDP Government announced an end to trophy hunting and all hunting of grizzly bears in the Great Bear Rainforest, something they had promised if elected. As of November 30, 2017 hunting was banned in the Great Bear Rainforest, and on December 18, 2017 the ban went across BC. This was the right time to make this happen as grizzlies are listed as a species of special concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
Before the ban took place, the Coastal First Nation’s took the matter in their own hands to protect the grizzly. The First Nations culture, language and livelihood are deeply connected with the land. They have shared the Great Bear Rainforest with the grizzly for thousands of years. The largest concentration of the coastal grizzly population is in the Great Bear Rainforest, and there are nine Coast First Nations that are apart of the Coastal Alliance in this area. In 2013 these nine Nations announced a ban on commercial trophy hunting in their territories. The Coastal First Nations say that bears play an important role in coastal ecosystems and trophy hunting is inconsistent with First Nations traditional teaching and values, they hunt for substance not for trophies.
Grizzly bears are also known as brown bears or silver tips, and there is estimated to be 15,000 in British Columbia. Since the ban of the hunt, they BC coastal grizzlies will continue their presence as an apex predator in our rainforests.
Now let’s learn about these recently protected animal’s diets! Bears living on the coast of British Columbia have a different diet than bears living in the interior of British Columbia. Where ever the grizzly lives, it will come out of hibernation craving protein. The coastal bears will start eating sedge grass. Sedge grass is very high in protein and grows in estuaries. Grizzly bears have long, scooped claws and powerful shoulders, perfect for digging. They dig for roots that are rich in starch, like Silver Weed. During low tide they will scavenge the beach and rocky areas. Grizzlies use their claws to scrape barnacles, muscles and limpets off the rocks and lick up the insides. They also effortlessly flip big rocks on the beach, which exposes tasty crabs and little fish. In the spring and summer months a variety of different berries will ripen; huckleberries, salal berries and black berries to name a few. Then in late summer and fall the salmon start to run. This is where the grizzly gets its main source of fat and nutrients for the up and coming months in the den. From leaving the den in the spring to entering the den in the winter, the grizzly bear is always eating. They need to get big and fat to survive the winter months.
Now we may not have any grizzlies native to Vancouver Island, but they are our northern neighbour who are actually very good swimmers. They have been known to island hop, and have occasionally made appearances on Vancouver Island. Where ever you may be, it’s a good idea to be informed so you know what to do if you come across a Grizzly.
Tips before going out into Grizzly bear country:
- Be in the mindset that you could encounter a bear at anytime.
- Travel in a group and carry a bear bell with you. If you don’t have a bear bell; talk loudly, sing or break sticks. This will avoid a surprise encounter.
- If you are going out into the bush with bear spray or bear bangers, be informed on how to use them properly.
If you see a Grizzly bear:
- Don’t’ run. Grizzly bears can run on average 60km/h, so you cannot outrun them.
- Don’t yell or scream.
- Don’t make direct eye contact.
- If the Grizzly is not approaching you, walk away slowly.
The next discussion that the Coastal First Nations will have with the BC Government will be concerning the black bear hunt and other issues regarding the Provinces wildlife management on first nations territories.