FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Trophy-Hunting Canada’s Grizzlies

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:

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
June 14, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump’s Trade Threats are Really Cold War 2.0
Bruce E. Levine
Tom Paine, Christianity, and Modern Psychiatry
Jason Hirthler
Mainstream 101: Supporting Imperialism, Suppressing Socialism
T.J. Coles
How Much Do Humans Pollute? A Breakdown of Industrial, Vehicular and Household C02 Emissions
Andrew Levine
Whither The Trump Paradox?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of 10,000 Talkers, All With Broken Tongues
Pete Dolack
Look to U.S. Executive Suites, Not Beijing, For Why Production is Moved
Paul Street
It Can’t Happen Here: From Buzz Windrip and Doremus Jessup to Donald Trump and MSNBC
Rob Urie
Capitalism Versus Democracy
Richard Moser
The Climate Counter-Offensive: Secrecy, Deception and Disarming the Green New Deal
Naman Habtom-Desta
Up in the Air: the Fallacy of Aerial Campaigns
Ramzy Baroud
Kushner as a Colonial Administrator: Let’s Talk About the ‘Israeli Model’
Mark Hand
Residents of Toxic W.Va. Town Keep Hope Alive
John Kendall Hawkins
Alias Anything You Please: a Lifetime of Dylan
Linn Washington Jr.
Bigots in Blue: Philadelphia Police Department is a Home For Hate
David Macaray
UAW Faces Its Moment of Truth
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Horace G. Campbell
Edward Seaga and the Institutionalization of Thuggery, Violence and Dehumanization in Jamaica
Graham Peebles
Zero Waste: The Global Plastics Crisis
Michael Schwalbe
Oppose Inequality, Not Cops
Ron Jacobs
Scott Noble’s History of Resistance
Olivia Alperstein
The Climate Crisis is Also a Health Emergency
David Rosen
Time to Break Up the 21st Century Tech Trusts
George Wuerthner
The Highest Use of Public Forests: Carbon Storage
Ralph Nader
It is Time to Rediscover Print Newspapers
Nick Licata
How SDS Imploded: an Inside Account
Rachel Smolker – Anne Peterman
The GE American Chestnut: Restoration of a Beloved Species or Trojan Horse for Tree Biotechnology?
Sam Pizzigati
Can Society Survive Without Empathy?
Manuel E. Yepe
China and Russia in Strategic Alliance
Patrick Walker
Green New Deal “Climate Kids” Should Hijack the Impeachment Conversation
Colin Todhunter
Encouraging Illegal Planting of Bt Brinjal in India
Robert Koehler
The Armed Bureaucracy
David Swanson
Anyone Who’d Rather Not be Shot Should Read this Book
Jonathan Power
To St. Petersburg With Love
Marc Levy
How to Tell a Joke in Combat
Thomas Knapp
Pork is Not the Problem
Manuel García, Jr.
Global Warming and Solar Minimum: a Response to Renee Parsons
Jill Richardson
Straight People Don’t Need a Parade
B. R. Gowani
The Indian Subcontinent’s Third Partition
Adolf Alzuphar
Diary: The Black Body in LA
Jonah Raskin
‘69 and All That Weird Shit
Michael Doliner
My Surprise Party
Stephen Cooper
The Fullness of Half Pint
Charles R. Larson
Review: Chris Arnade’s “Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America”
David Yearsley
Sword and Sheath Songs
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail