Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

The home of a senior in the village of Iskut, B.C.., where a large grizzly bear broke in the front door and raided her freezer.Supplied

When a senior in a remote log cabin in northern B.C. called for help last Sunday night as a large, hungry grizzly tore through her front door, the nearest conservation officers were hours away. Residents of the nearby community of Iskut were ordered to stay indoors, while wildlife officers from the Tahltan Central Government, or TCG, hunted the aggressive bear.

The woman escaped, leaving the bear in her home where it raided the freezer, ransacked her belongings, and damaged her vehicle. Halloween trick-or-treating was cancelled in Iskut, as a Tahltan wildlife guardian and his son tracked the bear through the snow. After two days, they caught the 225-kilogram grizzly in a leg hold trap, and fatally shot it.

Chad Day, president of the TCG, believes the frightening incident underscores the need for a stewardship and wildlife-management regime led by the Tahltan Nation.

Bears that attacked two women in Squamish, B.C., won’t be captured

“This is an issue that Tahltan are starting to take into our own hands, and we want to encourage a lot of other Indigenous people to do the same thing,” Mr. Day said in an interview Friday.

The provincial government was applauded by environmentalists in 2017 when it announced a ban on grizzly bear hunting – with the exception of First Nations who hunt for treaty rights or for food, social and ceremonial reasons.

Open this photo in gallery:

The woman escaped, leaving the bear in her home where it ransacked her belongings.Supplied

While the measure earned broad public support, Mr. Day said the province’s approach to wildlife management is flawed, and Indigenous communities are losing their food security because ineffective predator management is leaving their territories denuded of caribou, moose and other sources of food. Furthermore, human-grizzly conflicts are on the rise. He said the past year has been the worst in recent memory – although this was the closest call.

“We want to help educate British Columbians – particularly in Vancouver and Victoria – who celebrated the grizzly bear hunting ban. We want them to understand that it’s a very, very different relationship between people that live in northern isolated communities and predators than it is for people that only encounter predators on TV or in the zoo.”

The grizzly that was killed this week was harvested according to traditional methods, Mr. Day added. The pelt was taken to the school in Iskut for educational purposes, and the fat is being rendered by an elder.

“It’s not trophy hunting. For thousands of years, before others showed up in our homelands, our people practised predator management with wolves and with bears for a reason. Because they always understood that we are competing for limited resources.”

He said the province is protecting predators while allowing resident hunters to take dwindling populations of caribou and moose: “It’s a recipe for disaster.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment, David Karn, said the conservation service received a call about an aggressive grizzly on Sunday night, but its officers were unable to attend. The service was advised Tuesday morning that the bear had been put down.

“We continue to work together, government to government, with the Tahltan on wildlife management,” says a statement from Mr. Karn.

Just weeks before the incident, the TCG and the provincial government signed an agreement to work together toward the development and implementation of a new regime designed to protect and preserve Tahltan wildlife, culture and way of being.

The traditional territory of the Tahltan in northwestern B.C. constitutes 11 per cent of the province. It is a region rich in natural resource opportunities – mining, forestry and clean energy – and Mr. Day said resource development in their territory needs to be paired with world-class wildlife management.

“If we, as Tahltan people, were the ones controlling how mining took place in our territory, and we were the ones collecting all the tax dollars and deciding where it got spent, then there would be millions of dollars available for wildlife management and I have no doubt that we would do a much better job and be where we want to be,” he said.

The accord is a step in the right direction, according to Mr. Day, but there are not enough resources to properly assess wildlife populations and set policy accordingly.

“It’s very difficult to manage what you are not measuring. The province is not measuring the number of ungulates, their movements, the predators that are going after them. A lot of their work is being done based on guesswork.”

Open this photo in gallery:

A Tahltan wildlife guardian and his son tracked the aggressive bear through the snow, caught it in a leg hold trap and shot it.Supplied

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe