VICTORIA – Hundreds of hunters, some wearing camouflage and blowing duck calls, gathered at the B.C. legislature Monday to protest the share of big-game hunting permits set aside for guide-outfitters and their out-of-province clients.
About 300 hunters and supporters attended the rally, bringing petitions with thousands of names to present in the legislature. The largest petition called for a limit of 10 per cent share of moose and elk allocated for non-resident hunters, and 15 per cent for mountain goats and grizzly bears, prized by trophy hunters.
It was the latest of a series of protests that began in December when the government announced an increase of limited-entry hunting opportunities for guide-outfitters.
Sean Richardson, president of the Oceola Fish and Game Club in the Okanagan, said with the resurgence of hunting popularity in B.C., the government is moving in the wrong direction by increasing commercialization of wildlife harvesting.
"We need to stop managing a diminishing resource through social management, and we need to start working towards making more wildlife," Richardson said.
Forests Minister Steve Thomson said he understands the principle behind the ongoing protest, but the latest allocation decision was made after 10 years of discussions with resident hunters and guide-outfitters, and he is not prepared to change it again.
When the plan was announced in December, the government estimated that it represented a shift of 168 animals in limited-entry hunt areas from resident hunters to guide outfitters. After resident hunters and the B.C. Wildlife Federation objected, Forests Minister Steve Thomson announced in February that is being adjusted to a shift of about 60 animals to guide-outfitters. But the protests have continued.
B.C. hunters are concerned that the share reserved for guide-outfitters is higher than anywhere else in North America. Under the latest policy for limited-entry hunts, that share is 20 per cent for elk, 20 or 25 per cent for moose depending on the restricted region, 35 per cent for mountain goat, and 40 per cent for grizzly bears.
Open season areas for moose and other animals remain in the southern Interior and northeast, where anyone can buy a license and tag to hunt. Abundant species such as mule deer, whitetail deer and black bear have no hunting quotas in any part of B.C.
Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver introduced legislation Monday that would require non-resident hunters to pack out the edible parts of grizzly bears they shoot in B.C. Trophy hunters should be subject to the same "eat what you kill" rules as resident hunters already face, he said.