Group wrong about bears

It’s time for the Alberta Fish and Game Association to take a reality check. Once touted to be Alberta’s largest conservation group, the organization is losing its touch.

It’s time for the Alberta Fish and Game Association to take a reality check. Once touted to be Alberta’s largest conservation group, the organization is losing its touch.

In a bone-headed bid this week, it urged the Alberta government to “immediately” reinstate the province’s grizzly bear hunt. Its press release, available at www.afga.org is a real knee-slapper.

Earlier this year, it made a pitch for the government to open up a hunting season on the magnificent sandhill cranes.

What was the AFGA thinking when issuing a press release calling on the government for the bear hunt to continue, based on backwoods observations usually afforded only to those living in isolated regions of the Great Smokey Mountains?

Association president Quentin Bochar wants the hunts to continue to bring under control what he calls “regular attacks” by grizzlies on humans and human habitation.

The association makes light of scientific studies that have determined the grizzly bear population is in dire straights. It counters those claims, saying: “. . . local citizens and the AFGA are sceptical about the numbers of grizzlies bandied about by environmentalists and biologists that less than 500 grizzlies exist in Alberta.”

“Bandied about?”

Those figures are based on solid studies, which included input from government biologists who urged an end to the grizzly bear hunts until populations could be accurately determined.

“The recent attacks on and killings of human and animals alike in the Sundre are concrete examples that removing the grizzly hunt was a big mistake as they are becoming bolder and bolder,” said the release.

In the past few years, one hunter in the Sundre area has been killed by a grizzly. More recently, a couple of miniature Sundre-area donkeys, worth several thousands of dollars, fell victim to two grizzlies.

“With all these attacks occurring on a regular basis you have to wonder just how many bears there really are,” said Bochar. “It’s common knowledge that the best thing to do to keep animals wild is to have a hunt,” he added.

Firstly, attacks on a regular basis? Hardly. Secondly, to keep them wild you have to shoot them? Impossible.

They’re deader than a doornail when shot — the furthest thing from being wild.

In its bid to re-open the grizzly hunt, the AFGA added: “We hope all Albertans will also express (our) support.”

Defenders of Wildlife, a reliable conservation group, has been monitoring the grizzlies with a passion.

“Alberta’s grizzly bears are in peril now more than ever before,” said Jim Pissot, Canada’s field representative for that group. “Grizzlies need more conservation, not more bullets.”

Proven scientific studies have placed the grizzly population at a generous 419 mark.

Documented studies more accurately say 323 grizzlies. But there are grizzlies missed, thus the 419 number which informed biologists are basing their studies upon.

It is incomprehensible the AFGA fails to address the fact the intrusion on grizzly bear habitat is the biggest threat now facing such a magnificent carnivore.

These are animals that demand a pristine wilderness with lots of room and no disturbance.

We are failing the grizzlies by failing to recognize their needs based on instinctive drives, compliments of Mother Nature.

Rick Zemanek is an Advocate editor.

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