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Hunters 'overkill' grizzlies in B.C., study finds

Grizzly bears were over-hunted by the hundreds from 2001-2011 in B.C., according to a new study, but the provincial government says that’s not the case.

A team of researchers is asking for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to pull back on the number of trophy hunting licenses it hands out to curb the number of bear killings.

“Based on historical records, we detected over-mortality cases that ranged from one to 24 grizzlies higher – meaning two to 171 per cent higher – than government limits,” said Simon Fraser University biologist Kyle Artelle, the study’s lead author.

From 2001 to 2011 the legally sanctioned number of bears to hunt was roughly 2,800 bears, 900 of which could be female, according to the study.

But Artelle and his fellow scientists state 3,500 bears were killed, including more than 1,200 females.

The findings were published in the Public Library of Science.

Artelle said politics and faulty science could be factors in the government issuing too many licenses.

“Part of the reason is that current hunt management does not adequately account for how uncertain their data are,” he said.

But the provincial government says their practices are based on a deep pool of scientific data.

“The grizzly bear harvest is based on the best available science and incorporates multiple sources of information,” the ministry wrote in a statement to Metro.

The ministry says all of its data currently shows robust grizzly bear populations.

The trophy hunting of bears has been a point of contention for First Nations bands.

Coastal First Nations bands have tried to ban the activity, but the provincial government doesn’t recognize their tribal law.

Artelle says ultimately, if nothing changes, he doesn’t know what the outcome will be.

“What we have found is that populations could be currently managed to decline without anyone even knowing,” he said. “To carry on with business as usual, without knowing what the outcome of this management will be, is a lot like playing a game of Russian Roulette.”

The government estimates roughly 300 grizzlies are harvested in the province every year, of at least 15,000 grizzlies currently living in B.C.

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