A showdown between hunters and Canadian indigenous tribes in British Columbia (BC) is looming ahead of the upcoming grizzly bear hunting season. The tribes have announced they will be enforcing their own introduced ban on grizzly hunting on their territories along the BC north and central coasts, but hunters and hunting organizations say the ban is not legal and they will continue their grizzly hunts.
In 2012, The Coastal First Nations, a coalition of First Nations communities in British Columbia, proclaimed a grizzly bear hunt ban on their territory, regardless of the fact that it's sanctioned by the British Columbian provincial government, which continues to distribute trophy-hunting permits.
The resource director at the Guardian Watchmen and chief of the Kitasoo/Xai'xais Nation, Doug Neasloss, said "Coastal Guardian Watchmen" will be patrolling their lands to enforce the ban by telling hunters to stop and by scaring their prey away.
"We've been brought up to have respect for these animals and it's really unfortunate when people just come here and shoot these animals for sport. We like business to come to our territory, but there's some industries that are not accepted and not welcome, and trophy hunting is one of them." said Neasloss
When grizzlies are trophy hunted, their heads are normally cut off, the body skinned and whatever of the carcass meat the hunters don't want is usually left behind.
A BC provincial government spokesman said 300 grizzly bears in BC are killed each year in regulated hunts and that there are 15,000 grizzlies in the province - a figure disputed by conservation and animal rights groups. Canada's Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada says grizzlies are "a special concern" as they are "particularly sensitive to human activities or natural events".
Alberta banned grizzly hunting in 2006, declaring the bear a threatened species.
Although Neasloss said the First Nations' ban has reduced the number of grizzlies hunted each year and that many hunters have turned in their permits out of respect, experts say it is “unlikely the big business of bear hunting" will end anytime soon.
One company, Covert Outfitting, offers grizzly hunting excursions for $19,000. According to a Covert Outfitting spokesman, the number of grizzlies they hunt stays within limits set by the Government to sustain the bear population.
"Why do we personify an animal because it has a name and people take pictures of it?" said the spokesman "With grizzly bears, it's because they're beautiful and people think they're amazing, but if they were ugly and had no hair and killed people every day, everyone would want us to shoot them."
He added "A lot of people think it's total insanity, but it's not. Maybe it's insanity living in the top of a skyscraper in downtown Vancouver, and having no idea what nature is or where our food comes from."
However, Neasloss is confident they will win their fight for a ban on grizzly hunting, as he believes most British Columbians are against trophy hunting.
"I'm very hopeful that we're going to stop it. And I think the province needs to listen to us, to start listening to the people," he said.