A petition calling for a ban on the hunting of bears along the roadsides of the Yukon was presented to the legislature on Wed. Nov. 6, by Kevin Barr, MLA for Mt. Lorne Southern Lakes.
This petition came about from a growing concern over the shooting of grizzlies along the roadsides of the southern Yukon in the last few years.
These bears have come to depend on the plethora of plant life along our roadsides, especially in years of a low berry crop. In the process, these intelligent creatures learn to trust the vehicles and people that stop to view them. In fact, they occasionally seem to enjoy this attention, as was the case with the blonde grizzly that was shot along the Tagish Road last spring.
Over the years, I am constantly hearing expressions of joy from the tourists who frequent the campgrounds I maintain along the Atlin Road. This unexpected bonus to their trip often causes them to extend their stay.
Grizzlies are the prime viewing animal for our tourists, and ourselves as well. Outside of the southern Yukon, there are very few places in North America where they can be so readily and regularly seen. It is becoming a calling card for our tourist industry.
Now consider the negative consequences on our tourist economy when one of these magnificent and trusting animals is shot in the ditch, and the carcass left for all to see (no, you do not have to take the meat – the animal is killed just for its hide). That happened on the Atlin Road in 2009. Groups of tourists (from the U.S. and Europe) that approached me about it in the following week assumed that such a killing would be illegal, and wanted to know if the person was caught. They could not believe that such a beautiful place like the Yukon could allow such a despicable act.
Although I felt some embarrassment for our territory, I reassured them there are many of us working hard to change this law.
The display of a grizzly hide is not merely ornamental. It is a statement of the hunting prowess of the person who put it there. When that hide is so cruelly ripped from a bear that has learned to trust our species and will not even run away, then that display becomes a lie. There is most certainly no prowess in such a killing. It is despicable and cowardly.
The Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board is presently conducting public consultation on this issue. I strongly urge you, when they come to your community, to express your concern for the negative image such indiscriminate killings are having on our territory, and your desire for a law protecting these most magnificent creatures so they may forage our roadsides in peace. This territory belongs to them too.
I commend the management board for the good work they are doing, but understandably, it will take some time. So I am requesting our minister of environment, Currie Dixon, to ban the roadside hunting of bears until the board can complete its work.