In December 2017, the provincial government enacted a complete ban on the hunting of grizzly bears in British Columbia.
The announcement came five months after John Horgan of the BC New Democratic Party (NDP) became premier and followed intense discussions among conservation groups about a way forward.
The previous provincial government, led by Christy Clark of the BC Liberals, had rejected any changes to the grizzly bear hunt in 2015, only to change its position two years later as the provincial election drew near.
Provincial political parties, regardless of leaning, have been keenly aware of the way residents feel about this topic. For the past few years, Research Co. and Glacier Media have measured the displeasure of Canadians and British Columbians with the notion of hunting animals for sport. When we last asked in August 2023, only 14 per cent of respondents across the country – and just 11 per cent in the province – came out in favor of trophy hunting.
Earlier this year, the provincial government released its draft Grizzly Bear Stewardship Framework. The document appears to question the rationale behind the 2017 trophy hunt ban, stating that it “was not specifically or directly” implemented “in response to a conservation concern.” The inclusion of this phrase in a lengthy document has led to questions about the type of decisions the government might take.
In partnership with Pacific Wild Alliance, Research Co. asked British Columbians last month about the current state of affairs. The findings were not surprising. Across the province, only 11 per cent of residents think hunting grizzly bears for sport is appropriate, while 84 per cent consider the practice inappropriate.
There are also significant levels of animosity from British Columbians to hunting other animals for sport, including wolves (81 per cent), black bears (83 per cent) and wild cats such as cougars, lynx and bobcats (84 per cent). Majorities of respondents in households where an individual has possessed a hunting licence at some point over the past 10 years do not think it is appropriate to hunt any of these four species for sport.
Most British Columbians also reject the notion of eliminating some animals to allow others to be openly targeted. In our survey, 74 per cent of respondents disagree with the idea that natural predators (such as bears, cougars and wolves) should be killed to decrease competition with hunters for moose, deer and elk. This idea is rejected by 77 per cent of women and 80 per cent of British Columbians aged 55 and over.
When British Columbians ponder if the grizzly bear hunt should be reinstated, seven in 10 (70 per cent) disagree – including 56 per cent who are strongly against this course of action. This is not a case of urban residents eclipsing the views of rural ones. The level of rejection is highest in Vancouver Island (79 per cent), followed by Southern B.C. (75 per cent), the Fraser Valley (74 per cent), Northern B.C. (70 per cent) and Metro Vancouver (66 per cent).
On a political basis, most supporters of the three main parties that participated in the 2020 provincial election think this is not the time to reinstate the grizzly bear hunt: 73 per cent among BC NDP voters, 68 per cent among BC Green Party supporters and 65 per cent among those who cast ballots for the BC Liberals.
Many uncertainties remain about where the provincial government will go after seeking feedback from the public about the Grizzly Bear Stewardship Framework. At this stage, just over three in four British Columbians (76 per cent) call for decisions about grizzly bears to remain in the hands of the provincial government, with grizzly bears held in trust for all of the province’s residents.
The ban that has been in place for almost six years is enforced through the B.C. Wildlife Act as a “regulatory” tool. For 77 per cent of British Columbians, the next step should be to pass a law ensuring that the ban on the trophy and sport hunting of grizzly bears enacted in December 2017 remains in place.
A lot has changed in the province since 2017, but the perceptions of British Columbians on trophy hunting have remained steadfast. Residents remain dismayed at the notion of killing animals for sport and are overwhelmingly supportive of the ban that is still in place today.
Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.
Results are based on an online study conducted from Sept. 23-25, 2023, among 1,000 adults in British Columbia. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in British Columbia. The margin of error – which measures sample variability – is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.