THE BLOG

Announcing International Bear Day

09/26/2014 05:18 EDT | Updated 11/26/2014 05:59 EST

Bears are iconic symbols and charismatic ambassadors for B.C.'s wilderness.

Given this, and with so much controversy surrounding B.C.'s upcoming bear hunting season, we thought it made sense to focus on bears at the second annual B.C. Conservation Symposium, which took place earlier this month.

One of Artists for Conservation's goals is to inspire healthy dialogue around wildlife and conservation issues.

As apex predators in the ecosystem, bears are slow to reproduce, are spread out over vast areas, and have populations that are much more sensitive to the loss of an individual than other large species such as deer. The bear's top position on the food chain means that by protecting them, we help conserve the entire ecosystems they live in.

The topic of hunting is a sensitive but critical one in the conservation dialogue. Most controversies arise over trophy hunting, which is done only for the pleasure and pride of the individual hunter and has no sustenance value whatsoever. This is an important distinction, but is also not necessarily cut-and-dry. Trophy hunting on African reserves has resulted in real conservation successes.

No one approach or policy can serve all cases effectively. Intelligent conservation policy can only be possible by openly considering the science and research, and not emotion-based lobbying by either side of an issue.

This year B.C. has issued the highest number of hunting authorizations in decades, with roughly 1,800 trophy-hunting licenses sold. Given that 88 per cent of B.C. residents oppose bear trophy hunting, the number is surprising.

But the hunt can undermine bear tourism by making bears scarce from their natural stomping grounds. Trophy hunting often sparks the debate around the morality of sport hunting versus sustenance hunting, as well as issues around conservation. It also begs the question: Are bears more valuable economically alive than dead in B.C.?

At this year's symposium, we declared the first ever International Bear Day.

Conservation leaders from the David Suzuki Foundation, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Bears Forever, Coastal First Nations, and Grouse Mountain's Refuge for Endangered Wildlife led a dialogue around the critical role bears play in our ecosystem, as well as their economic and cultural value.

The panelists, along with the help of symposium guests, participated in the establishment of International Bear Day, declared to be the first Saturday of April each year. Starting in 2015, the date will be recognized annually as International Bear Day.

With the declaration of Bear Day, Artists for Conservation hopes to leave a legacy for increased public awareness and understanding of the importance and fragility of these incredible animals.

We'll continue the bear conversation at our annual 10-day Artists for Conservation Festival kicking off tomorrow, September 27. The Festival will feature guest lectures, workshops for youth and adults, documentary films, live painting and sculpting demos, and music and cultural performance.