Column: Of grizzly bears and orcas

By Hank Shelley, Observer contributor

There are two species of animal, dear to the heart of B.C. folks. Those being the grizzly bear and the Orca, also known as the killer whale.

Both species are recently the subject of concern. For the great bears, emotion and politics have finally shut down the hunting of these animals through out the province. Although there is a healthy population, trophy hunting was what got folks riled up, and for good reason. In this day and age, trophy hunting possibly in Africa for rich hunters though safari International, under conservation ethics of too many animals of one species is understandable. But with a shrinking environment and climate change, hunters no longer need to harvest a grizzly bear.

However, bears being bears, there will be more issues down the road, in dealing with problem animals in rural settings, ranch concerns on losing cattle and hunters having to deal with the big bears when harvesting game come hunting seasons. These animals are expanding their territory, even swimming across to Vancouver Island where sightings have occurred. A bear was shot walking down the main street of a Native reserve near Port Hardy.

Locally, there is a big bear enjoying his winter snooze in a den on Mt. Ida. Other locations for grizzly sightings for the past few seasons has been in the Malakwa area. One resident having a big bear walk across her front yard last summer.

It will mean more work, removing problem grizzlies in rural settings for conservation officers. Residents across B.C. have spoken, and the government acted.

Hopefully it will work out for the grizzlies, as they need lots of room in the wilderness to roam.

Salmon anglers on the Coast, will feel the brunt of some specific closures for conservation, to help a pod of killer whales that feed exclusively on salmon. These include the mouth of the Fraser River, the west side of Pender Island, Saturna Island and parts of the Straight of Juan de Fuca.

The main diet of this group is Fraser chinook salmon, although they forage on sockeye and pinks. The main focus in sustaining this population, (76 down from 96) is trying to improve prey availability, with an increase chinook stocks. Also to reduce ship noise, so the animals can forage better. Misty McDuffee of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation showed maps recently, of foraging refuges for keeping whale watchers and fishermen, out of these zones.

DFO has similar concerns and is spending $7.2 million on digital hydrophone, oceanographic technologies to monitor underwater sound. Once again emotion, politics and saving a specific species play a large part in what is transpiring.

It is also a small part in the decline of salmon stocks, from warming temperatures, smolt survival, a large abundance of sea lions (30,000 to 150,000 seals) and the all eat fish. There’s also a growing population of sea otters enjoying crab, prawn, clams and oysters. Each species are protected, some since 1974. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. After all, our grizzly bears and orcas are a wonderful presence in our small part of the planet.

Next week, some great take down tales on poachers!

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