On Bear Hunting at Eucott Hot Spring

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My family and I recently sailed up to Eucott Bay, a popular hot spring halfway between Bella Coola and Bella Bella B.C., near to where we live. Shortly after we arrived, a party of camouflaged people set out from their anchored boat for the shore of the bay opposite the hot spring. It was a beautiful warm spring day. A huge black bear emerged within our sight while the party waited a few hundred yards down the beach. As the horrific reality of what was about to happen became clearer to us, I decided to row our skiff across the bay to try to persuade them not to shoot the bear in front of my husband, our 4-year-old son and I.
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It turned out to be Shannon Lansdowne, daughter of former Bella Coola-based guide-outfitter Leonard Ellis with a film crew from Remington Country TV, including trophy hunting guide and show co-host Dan Harrison. During our brief conversation, they warned me that I could be charged with interfering with the hunt for coming between them and the bear. As I walked away from them they fired off a shot, walked into the bush in the other direction, and then left shortly afterwards without killing the bear. 

I lodged a complaint with the local conservation officer. I was told that the Ellis-Remington group was acting well within the law and that I may be charged with interference. Hunting is considered a recreational activity in B.C.; the province allows hunting in many provincial parks and protected areas, including here in the Great Bear Rainforest, despite a ban on all trophy bear hunting imposed by nine First Nations in 2012. 

IMG_2008Eucott Bay is a safe harbour for boaters along the Dean Channel. It is within the Cascade-Sutslem Conservancy, with the exception of a small crescent of Crown land opposite the hot spring, where the Ellis-Remington group was stationed in the intertidal zone. Its wild hot spring must be one of the most spectacular in B.C., surrounded by glacier-topped mountains, waterfalls and salt meadows and shouldered by giant moss-covered boulders fallen from the cliffs above. The next day we soaked and splashed in the odourless hot waters of the spring and watched another big black bear feeding on sedges. Later on we saw a small grizzly frolicking on the opposite shore. I had been dreaming of travelling to this spot on our sailboat for many years. In spite of the tense conflict, it was a trip I will always treasure, made even more perfect by a long encounter with a pod of over 100 playful white-sided dolphins on the return voyage. 

I think there are certain places that should be left for people and wildlife to simply enjoy. Hot springs are places of healing and spiritual cleansing. On this part of the coast they are few and far between; Nascall, the nearest hot spring to Eucott, is on private land and is not open to the public. 

Regardless of where one stands on the science and ethics of bear hunting and trophy hunting, or on the relative value of different types of park use, the safety of all park visitors should be a foremost consideration. The hunters we encountered intended to shoot a habituated bear from the intertidal zone on a beach continuous with and in sight of where we sat, unarmed (and undressed). What if a bear was shot and wounded?

Bear-viewing in the Great Bear Rainforest generated 12 times more in visitor spending than bear hunting and employed over 500 people in 2012, compared with just 11 workers employed by the guide outfitting industry (Center for Responsible Travel and Stanford University, 2014). It’s time for the province to ban trophy hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest, and to stop allowing bears and other wildlife to be hunted for sport in recreational areas like Eucott Bay, where tourism and hunting are clearly in conflict. 

If you agree, please write to provincial politicians to voice your support for a ban on hunting at Eucott Bay. For more information on what you can do to stop the grizzly bear trophy hunt in B.C., visit Pacific Wild’s Take Action page.

Please copy your letters to us at info@pacificwild.org and to Bella Coola Tourism at info@bellacoola.ca.

BC Premier Christy Clark: premier@gov.bc.ca 

Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson (responsible for Crown lands): flnr.minister@gov.bc.ca

Minister of Environment Mary Polak (responsible for parks and protected areas and wildlife management): ENV.Minister@gov.bc.ca

Written by Krista Roessingh. All photos by Ingmar Lee, 2015. 

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