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Opposition to killing grizzlies for sport on the rise

Seven years after the British Columbia government lifted a moratorium on the sport hunting of grizzly bears, a growing number of people want to see the practice banned again.

According to a poll to be released today, 73 per cent of British Columbians support an end to the trophy hunting of grizzlies, a substantial increase from the 52 per cent who were opposed in 2001, when the hunt resumed after the newly elected Liberal government overturned a moratorium imposed six months earlier by the NDP.

"That's a 21-point increase since the moratorium was lifted," said Ian McAllister, director of a non-profit wildlife conservation group, Pacific Wild. "It was an unpopular decision when the government lifted the ban and it's even more unpopular now.

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"The people of B.C. are generally more interested in the environment than they were in the past and I think we're seeing that reflected in the increased numbers," Mr. McAllister said of the poll, which was commissioned by his organization. "I think the message here is clear: Just ban the hunt."

Mr. McAllister said he hopes the poll, together with voter pressure during an election year, will persuade the provincial government to reinstate the moratorium.

"People are getting frustrated over this issue," he said. "The government has failed to protect grizzly bear habitat ... and people are getting tired of hearing about bears being killed for sport."

The provincewide poll found even among British Columbians with hunting licences, 60 per cent support a ban on trophy hunting of grizzlies.

The opposition to the hunt cuts across party lines, with 64 per cent of those who identified themselves as New Democrats opposed, compared with 71 per cent of those who said they were Liberals and 81 per cent who identified as being Green.

Asked their reasons for supporting a hunting ban, 80 per cent said they did so because B.C. is "one of the last places on earth where rapidly diminishing grizzly bear populations have a chance at protection."

A large majority (84 per cent) said investing in ecotourism and lodges for learning about grizzly bears "will be more sustainable than shooting grizzly bears for sport."

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And 79 per cent said trophy hunting of bears is unethical.

"This poll clearly indicates that British Columbians support the growth of our industry - it's common sense," Dean Wyatt, of the Commercial Bear Viewing Association, said in a statement. "But while our growth potential is strong, we will never reach it while the trophy hunt continues to give B.C. a black eye in the international tourism market."

Since 2003, the European Union has banned the import of grizzly bear trophies from B.C. because of concerns the hunt is not sustainable.

Last year, approximately 430 grizzlies were killed in B.C., with about 300 of them taken by sports hunters and the rest killed as problem bears. The B.C. government has argued the hunt is sustainable.

But the poll found that just 18 per cent of British Columbians find such assertions credible, while 73 per cent said they agree with scientists who say the hunt should be stopped because of a lack of reliable population data.

The poll was done by McAllister Opinion Research, and is based on a random dial telephone survey of 629 British Columbians, aged 18 years and older. The survey was done between April 17 and 27, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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McAllister Opinion Research is a B.C.-based, national polling firm that has no affiliation with Mr. McAllister of Pacific Wild.

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