FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Trophy-Hunting Canada’s Grizzlies

by

The controversial trophy hunt for at-risk grizzly bears in the province of British Columbia, Canada, re-opened this month and is now in full swing.

Scrutiny of this hunt was ramped up last year with new evidence that its economic benefits are small when compared with ecotourism. Add to this further research that suggests hunting management strategies impose considerable risks to bear populations and it’s not surprising that concerns are being raised.

There is strong opposition from many indigenous groups, which have renewed calls for the government to respect tribal laws that ban the hunt on their traditional territories.

They are not alone – recent poll data suggests that 80-90% of citizens in the province, including hunters who target other species, oppose the trophy hunt.

Nevertheless, despite this opposition the hunt was not only re-opened but expanded on April 1st – what might have passed for an April Fools’ joke was instead presented as “science-based” management.

Protecting against over-kill

But our recent study casts doubt on this “science-based” management. We found that between 2001-2011, human kills of grizzly bears (of which four out of every five were from trophy hunting) exceeded government limits in half of all hunted populations.

We also found that hunt targets were not conservative because they did not properly take into account uncertainty in bear numbers, population growth rates, or poaching rates.

This uncertainty is not surprising: counting bears accurately in their remote wilderness habitats is difficult, let alone studying how quickly they reproduce and replace lost individuals.

To address this we described a management approach that explicitly takes uncertainty into account. To keep the probability of over-kill below 5%, targets would need to be reduced by 80%, and one third of hunted bear populations would need to be closed to hunting.

Contradictions

Surprisingly, shortly after this study was released, the government instead announced plans to increase the number of bears to be hunted, and to re-open the hunt in two populations that had previously been closed because of over-kills.

Managers stated that “because we recognise inherent uncertainty in our population and harvest rate estimates, conservative mortality targets are used”. While the government used language reminiscent of the recent study, they decided to expand the hunt, contrary to its conclusions.

The minister in British Columbia responsible for managing the hunt came under fire repeatedly in the provincial legislature for this. He was also criticised for claiming in a press release that sustainability of the hunt was confirmed by another study – which was not the case.

This raises the question – are “science-based” management decisions actually guided by science?

Science-based management?

Scientific research and enquiry is held up for external scrutiny through the peer review process. This ensures key scientific values: transparency, rationality, and reliance on rigorous evidence.

Scientists have no choice about this. If they want to publish their work in a credible journal, it needs to be peer-reviewed. Work that does not stand up to scrutiny gets rejected.

But there is no such requirement for most wildlife management decisions, even those claiming to be “science-based”.

Although scientists might spend years gathering and analysing data, packaging it into a manuscript, and revising their work in light of reviews by independent experts, politicians can make “science-based” claims without any such checks.

For ‘science-based’ read ‘politics-driven’

Not surprisingly this can and does lead to decisions guided more by politics than by science. The infamous collapse of the cod fishery in eastern Canada in the 1980s comes to mind.

And more recently, the science behind efforts to remove gray wolves from the US Endangered Species Act, and in the decision to cull badgers in the UK, has also been questioned.

A recent letter in the journal Science has pointed this shortcoming in“science-based” wildlife management, and following the letter’s release, more stories of questionable science emerged. It seems examples of scientific shortcomings might be the rule, not the exception.

Independent peer-review for wildlife managers?

Fortunately, the well-established scientific publishing process can provide ways to improve management decisions: subjecting management decisions to the same outside scrutiny expected of scientists would be an important first step.

As well as making science management more rigorous and transparent, external peer review would have the added bonus of helping to bridge the long bemoaned science-policy gap.

Kyle Artelle is a Biologist with the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and a Researcher in Conservation Ecology at the Earth 2 Oceans department at Simon Fraser University.

He receives funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada through a Vanier Fellowship, and the Tula Foundation through the Hakai Network for Coastal Peoples and Ecosystems.

This article originally ran in the Ecologist.

He has previously received funding from the Anne Vallee Ecological Fund, the David Suzuki Foundation, the C.D. Nelson Memorial Foundation, and through an Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Chris Welzenbach
The Forgotten Sneak Attack
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Pierre Labossiere – Margaret Prescod
Human Rights and Alternative Media Delegation Report on Haiti’s Elections
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
David Yearsley
Brahms and the Tears of Britain’s Oppressed
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail