In my opinion there is no good reason to allow roadside grizzly hunting and several very good reasons to end it. These reasons are based on conservation concerns, economics and ethics.
Worldwide grizzly bear populations have declined dramatically in the last century. We need to respect these magnificent and iconic animals and manage them cautiously and respectfully.
I think it is important that we do not encourage bears to come to roadsides and that we ensure vegetation seeded along our highways does not attract them. Unfortunately some grizzlies are attracted to roadsides due to the forage they find there. Once bears take to foraging beside a road some of them will learn through experience that they do not need to run from vehicles. Based on what I have seen, I believe that females and immature bears are more likely to adapt in this way.
Bears that do not flee from an approaching vehicle make for great wildlife viewing, but become very vulnerable to hunters.
Tourism is the largest private sector employer in the territory. The 2012 summer visitor exit survey found wildlife viewing opportunities were the number one attraction for tourists visiting the Yukon.
I believe that grizzlies would likely top the list of animals tourists want to see – not to mention the enjoyment they give to many Yukon residents. Seeing a grizzly might well be the highlight of a tourist’s trip to the Yukon. Given the importance of tourism to the Yukon’s economy I think it is clear that these animals are worth significantly more to our society than the $25 the government gets for someone to shoot one. A roadside grizzly can provide enjoyment for hundreds of people or a “trophy” for one individual.
I am not necessarily opposed to all roadside hunting. Most people eat what they shoot and hunting is as much about filling their freezer as it is about recreation or “sport.” For me this is an important distinction.
However, most grizzlies harvested in Yukon are not taken for food but rather for “sport” and are considered “trophies.” So in the context of roadside grizzly hunting you have a bear that has been attracted to the roadside due to the forage it finds there and has adapted so it no longer runs from vehicles including the approaching hunter.
What kind of sportsmanship is it when you shoot an animal that doesn’t perceive you as a threat and doesn’t flee? In my opinion there is no sport in this and, with all due respect, borders on the pathetic. It is simply liquidating an animal that hundreds of other people could enjoy.
If someone wants the “sport” of shooting a grizzly, then go grizzly hunting where you have to find and stalk a wary animal. Better yet, hunt with a camera, or go out there with a spear and a few dogs like the Inuit used to do with polar bears. Now that would be a trophy I would respect!