Tuesday, April 14, 2009


“A young bear cub shot with my camera on Vancouver Island”

Walking at Top Bridge Regional Park I heard many gun shots from the adjacent rifle range. By the thundering retorts I could tell that these were big guns. Then I remembered that the BC Liberals introduced a spring hunt for Black Bear and Cougar, when they first came to power in 2001.

At the time there was considerable public outrage, but most people have forgotten all about it today, yet the hunt continues and today many Black Bears and Cougars are being shot to death. On Vancouver Island there is an open hunting season on Black Bear from April 1 to June 15. This follows the fall hunt that was open September 6 through December 10, 2008.

Fish and Wildlife BC used to restrict hunting of bears to the fall only because in the spring the sows are with very young cubs. Shooting the mothers tends to seal the fate of the little ones to death through starvation or predation. Black Bear cubs live with their mother for at least a year, learning everything there is to know about being a bear. During the winter, bears on Vancouver Island are in semi-hibernation and the sows give birth to their cubs. In early spring bears begin to move around, foraging for fresh grass sprouts and various young plant shoots.

Today a BC residents can buy a hunting license for $20 to hunt down and kill Black Bears. A gall bladder fetches $500 and the paws about $100 each on the illegal parts market. In 2001 the official wildlife count by the BC Ministry of Environment recorded 12,000 Black Bear living on Vancouver Island. By 2008 more than 1/3 of the population had been killed, with current estimates at between 7,000 - 8,000 Black Bears.

Hunters can also shoot Cougars anytime between September 2 and June 15. The typical method humans use to hunt Cougar is with a team of dogs, often with a radio collar, who chase the mountain lion until it climbs a tree. The hunters then locate their dogs and shoot the cougar out of the tree. In 1995 an estimated 750 Cougars lived on Vancouver Island but their population has been decimated to half that number with approximately 300-400 recorded by Fish & Wildlife BC in 2008.

In the early 1960s, sports fishermen and hunters lobbied the BC government to open all forestlands to the public for recreational purposes. Agreements were made between the private and public sectors, which have benefited millions of people by allowing countless trips for camping, fishing, hunting, birding, mountain biking, canoeing, hiking, swimming, and other recreational activities. In recent years both logging corporations and the BC government have imposed restrictions that reduce public access to forestlands.

In a conversation I had with Ronda Murdock, co-owner/operator of Pacific Rainforest Adventure Tours, she explained: “We have been leading tours at Hamilton Marsh for the past two years, as part of the annual Brant Festival, but this year we were told by Island Timberlands that we are not welcome on their land.” Murdock went on to explain that on Tuesday April 7 she received a phone call from Makenzie Leine, spokeswoman for Island Timberlands, who told her that she would not be allowed to give the annual Brant Festival tour at Hamilton Marsh.

Leine also objected to Gary Murdock, who worked as a BC Forest Service Officer for 35 years, based on the fact that he appeared in a short video about Bear Den Island. www.islandboundmedia.blip.tv According to Leine this video proved that Murdock trespassed on the tiny island in the middle of Englishman River where he explained the age of a tree that had been cut down by fallers working for Island Timberlands.

According to the current laws and regulations established by the BC government and Island Timberlands, a hunter with a gun, can hike to Bear Den Island, locate the den, track the animal, and shoot a Black Bear. All this based on the very public knowledge that a bear has a den on this tiny island in the middle of Englishman River as reported in the PQNews along with a photo. However, an eco-tour operator is banned from entering any property owned by Island Timberlands because he has told the public about logging in the middle of a river.