Lab Blogs

The ‘grizzly’ details or; Everything you might not want to know (but should)

You might be visiting our site because you are following the efforts of the Central Coast Bear Working Group (bearsforever.ca) and their campaign to end trophy hunting in their Traditional Territories along what is now known as British Columbia’s central coast.  What you might not know are the ‘grizzly’ details about how bears die – not for food but for gratuitous reasons – in the Great Bear Rainforest.  Below is a vignette that illustrates how and what some ‘fringe hunters’ do in magnificent places to kill magnificent beings for sport and ‘trophy’.  Like most readers, I do not have the answer as to Why. This activity is very different from hunting for food.  If you feel distressed or sad to read this, know that these emotions provide efficient shortcuts to making up your mind on provocative issues.  For more details, please consider seeing Darimont & Paquet 2012.

With only gulls and ravens to witness, the Great Bear Rainforest loses a gentle spirit.

Breathless, a group of camouflaged killers labours their soft bodies up river. Their powerful rifles, deadly from up to 300 metres, help compensate for their shortcomings. The only remaining physical challenge is to steady shooting hands frenzied by testosterone and bombast.

A big brown beautiful being ambles calmly through shallow water. Unaware of any threat, her focus is on the next salmon that will help her make it through a long winter sleep.

She pauses to smell the air, but it is too late.

Bullets tear through flesh. Hot metal tortures muscle, organ, and bone. The innocent victim recoils in shock and anguish.

A powerful but graceful body now fails the bloodied grizzly as she tumbles into the streamside vegetation. Branches snap as a once serene bear protests defiantly against newfound suffering.

Killers hoot with self-congratulatory bravado.

Her terrified cubs, awoken from their streamside nap, stay hidden, for they know that danger lurks.

Death does come to their mother*, though not soon enough.

Sharp knives and jagged saws cleave only parts that promote boasting. Like all grizzly bear trophy hunts, this is not about providing food to families.

As the killers swagger downriver, no one looks back at the haunting mass of muscle, blood and bone. None know that, without their mother, the fragile cubs will suffer a slow death by starvation.

Face down, momma bear lies on the riverside sand in a pool of blood. Where her paws once were lay fingers curled into earth, as if an old woman had fallen streamside.

*Of the 10,286 grizzly bears that have been legally killed for trophy in British Columbia between 1976 and 2010, 3541 (34%) were female (BC Ministry of Environment; unpublished data). Killing females is not illegal, though hunters are requested in hunting regulations not to do so. The regulations also remind hunters that there is no open season on bears less than two years old, or bears observed to be in their company (i.e. mothers). Given that family groups are not always observed together, hunters are well known to kill in error, and that cubs often stay with their mothers longer than two years, the scenario in the introductory vignette is realistic.

Excerpt from Darimont & Paquet 2012

Photo by: Andrew S Wright

For an amazing & free 22 minute documentary, please see bearsforever.ca