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International trophy-hunting organization accused of influencing Vancouver Sun poll on grizzly hunt

Larry Pynn

Clayton Stoner, an NHL player for the Minnesota Wild, holding up a grizzly bear head in this photo taken in May and released to media on September 3. (Courtesy Coastal First Nations)

Clayton Stoner, an NHL player for the Minnesota Wild, holding up a grizzly bear head in this photo taken in May and released to media on September 3. (Courtesy Coastal First Nations)

An international trophy-hunting organization is being criticized for trying to influence a Vancouver Sun online poll on the NDP government ban on the grizzly trophy hunt.

The 50,000-member, U.S.-based Safari Club International (SCI) has posted a tweet designed to rally its supporters, saying: "Your help is needed to support grizzly hunting! Click on this link and vote 'NO' at the end of the article!"

The Sun's poll asks: "Are you happy with the B.C. NDP's plan to ban the grizzly trophy hunt?" It then asks readers to choose between one of two statements: "Yes — Killing bears for sport is senseless;" or "No — A lot of people depend on the hunt to make a living."

As of Wednesday afternoon, the two positions were running pretty much neck-and-neck, whereas professionally conducted public opinion polls on the issue have shown overwhelming support for ending the hunt.

SCI also issued two news releases this week, arguing that "sustainable management of wildlife in British Columbia was sucker-punched" and accusing the government of "bowing to the bluster of anti-hunters" and ignoring "all sound science that supports a continuation of grizzly bear hunting in that province."

On Monday, the NDP government made good on a high-profile election promise by announcing a B.C.-wide ban on trophy hunting of grizzly bears, while allowing hunting to continue for meat outside the Great Bear Rainforest.

Trish Boyum, a coastal ecotourism operator and strong advocate of ending the grizzly trophy hunt, urged SCI to butt out of B.C.'s affairs. "We in no way agree with Safari Club being involved in any decision making regarding wildlife in British Columbia," she said. "This is what happens when we allow these kinds of people to have their way in our province."

Boyum noted that she is associated with the Facebook page, Stop the Grizzly Killing, boasting 46,000 followers. She isn't urging them to respond to The Sun's poll, which she considers poorly worded and unscientific.

In March, environmentalists protested SCI donating $60,000 to the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C. within two months of the provincial election and only days before the start of the province’s controversial spring bear hunt.

An Insights West poll conducted in March for an ecotourism group found that about three-quarters of rural British Columbians oppose the grizzly bear trophy hunt. The poll found an average of 74 per cent opposed grizzly trophy hunting in five Liberal ridings: Kamloops-North Thompson, Boundary-Similkameen, Fraser Nicola, Cariboo North and Kootenay East.

A 2015 Insights West poll found that 91 per cent of British Columbians oppose the grizzly trophy hunt.

In a news conference Monday, Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, said that grizzly trophy hunting is “not a socially acceptable practice in 2017” and encouraged wilderness operators to look instead to the economics of bear-viewing.

Effective Nov. 30, 2017 — after the fall hunt — the province pledges to “end grizzly bear trophy hunting throughout the province and stop all hunting of grizzlies in the Great Bear Rainforest,” Donaldson said.

While the grizzly trophy hunt will end, hunting for meat may continue outside the Great Bear Rainforest. The province will close “loopholes” by forbidding a meat hunter from possessing the paws, head and hide of a grizzly to ensure trophy hunts aren't conducted under the guise of a meat hunt, Donaldson added.

About 170 grizzlies are killed annually in B.C. by resident hunters and 80 by foreign hunters accompanied by commercial guides.

The province estimates there are 15,000 grizzly bears in B.C.

lpynn@postmedia.com