We hunters are a paranoid lot. We claim to be conservationists (which, as a group, is true ; hunters/fishers pay more for on-the-ground conservation than any other user group) but often run to the barricades when we feel threatened by such conservation. As I discussed in my October Alberta Outdoorsmen column, thus is the nature of the grizzly bear hunt controversy in Alberta. Grizzly bear hunters in Alberta want to see the grizzly bear hunt reinstated. It was suspended in 2006 when preliminary results from an Alberta government population study indicated there may be less than 500 grizzlies in the province (outside the national parks) instead of the 1000 bears that the government earlier estimated using less precise methods.
Now, I don’t personally hunt bears, but I do want the bears I see in the bush to be wary of me. Hunted bears tend to be wary. That said, I also don’t want Alberta to lose its grizzly bears. For me, grizzlies indicate just how wild our wilderness really is. Grizzlies don’t tolerate too many people or much development in their domain. If we lose them, we lose an important indicator species about the health of our environment. So, for me, conservation comes first, conservation based on good scientific evidence when available.
And it is good scientific evidence the Alberta government has obtained through its Grizzly Bear Recovery Program. Such evidence about a large animal that doesn’t like to be seen is difficult to obtain. But obtain the government did (current figures indicate about 580 grizzlies outside the national parks). Unfortunately many hunters don’t like what the results say. They claim their anecdotal sightings of bears indicates more bears than the scientific study estimates, and want that study ignored and the hunt reinstated. I’m sorry, I cannot agree. If we truly do not have enough bears to sustain a hunt then we should not have the hunt. Wildlife management should not be based on hear-say when good scientific evidence is available.
So, what’s wrong with that?