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:
Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
Ryan LaMothe
A Christian Nation?
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Finger on the Button: Why No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons
W. T. Whitney
A Bizarre US Pretext for Military Intrusion in South America
Deepak Tripathi
Sex, Lies and Incompetence: Britain’s Ruling Establishment in Crisis 
Howard Lisnoff
Who You’re Likely to Meet (and Not Meet) on a College Campus Today
Roy Morrison
Trump’s Excellent Asian Adventure
John W. Whitehead
Financial Tyranny
Ted Rall
How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition
Jim Goodman
Stop Pretending the Estate Tax has Anything to do With Family Farmers
Thomas Klikauer
The Populism of Germany’s New Nazis
Murray Dobbin
Is Trudeau Ready for a Middle East war?
Jeiddy Martínez Armas
Firearm Democracy
Jill Richardson
Washington’s War on Poor Grad Students
Ralph Nader
The Rule of Power Over the Rule of Law
Justin O'Hagan
Capitalism Equals Peace?
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: From the Red Sea to Nairobi
Geoff Dutton
The Company We Sadly Keep
Evan Jones
The Censorship of Jacques Sapir, French Dissident
Linn Washington Jr.
Meek Moment Triggers Demands for Justice Reform
Gerry Brown
TPP, Indo Pacific, QUAD: What’s Next to Contain China’s Rise?
Robert Fisk
The Exile of Saad Hariri
Romana Rubeo - Ramzy Baroud
Anti-BDS Laws and Pro-Israeli Parliament: Zionist Hasbara is Winning in Italy
Robert J. Burrowes
Why are Police in the USA so Terrified?
Chuck Collins
Stop Talking About ‘Winners and Losers’ From Corporate Tax Cuts
Ron Jacobs
Private Property Does Not Equal Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Mass Shootings, Male Toxicity and their Roots in Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
The Fordist Academic
Frank Scott
Weapons of Mass Distraction Get More Destructive
Missy Comley Beattie
Big Dick Diplomacy
Michael Doliner
Democracy, Real Life Acting and the Movies
Dan Bacher
Jerry Brown tells indigenous protesters in Bonn, ‘Let’s put you in the ground’
Winslow Myers
The Madness of Deterrence
Cesar Chelala
A Kiss is Not a Kiss: Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children
Jimmy Centeno
Garcia Meets Guayasamin: A De-Colonial Experience
Stephen Martin
When Boot Becomes Bot: Surplus Population and The Human Face.
Martin Billheimer
Homer’s Iliad, la primera nota roja
Louis Proyect
Once There Were Strong Men
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones
David Yearsley
Academics Take Flight
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail