Part II – Bear Referendum
Chapter 21 – The Biggest hunters-vs-Antis Showdown
July 4, 1996, Thursday, cloudy, with showers en route form Fort St. John to Prince George.
[00:35 (960705/5) @ the Lynden residence]
– the Fort St. John Northerner (08:45 in person interview by Wendy Coomber at her office, SWN 4,000),
– the Dawson Creek Mirror (11:20 in person interview at the Dawson Creek Dinner & Deli by Diana Stephenson, CIRC 5,300),
– the Chetwynd Echo (13:00 in person interview by Rick Daison at his office, VCP 1,412).
Back to Prince George by 17:45.
19:00-22:15 – Prince George, the “Northern Capital of BC” sports 77,000 inhabitants, mostly hunters. From my perspective, it is the biggest pro-hunting city in BC, north or south, bar none.
Tonight’s open presentation at the Prince George Civic Centre on 855 Dominion Street, MCed by Carolyn Lynden, is pre-announced via media by design. I want page A-1 newspaper coverage. Gordon Hoekstra of the Prince George Citizen (dist. 23,000) will be there, guaranteed. It will be Port Alberni all over again, only, twice as big crowd-wise, and 10X as big media-wise.
As it worked out, there were about 10 environmentalists and AR people, mostly seated in the first two rows, and easily 130 hunters and guide-outfitters huffing behind their backs. They stuffed the room to standing-room-only, and spilled out into the hallway.
Carolyn’s friends Susan and Julie who were there said that they were sickened almost right from the start by the atmosphere of hostility and hatred. Julie, an elementary school teacher, said to me after the event, with tears in her eyes, “Now I know how some of my kids get to be so screwed up. How can they not be with parents like these?” Susan said that she would have left had it not been for her friend Carolyn.
This time, they didn’t even wait for me to begin before hammering me with whatever abuse they pleased. Some of them were from Port Alberni, and the guy who chased me on the Port Alberni highway was probably there as well. I know this because they were quoting what I said in that “presentation” – misquoted, rather – and someone remarked about me speeding. Some blatantly said, “This is not what I heard you say in Port Alberni.” So, they’re stalking me, and will continue to do so for the rest of the road tour. I wonder who among them were the ones chasing me on the Port Alberni highway. Have they switched to a Corvette for the next pursuit? One thing I haven’t noted in this journal up to this point, and that is the almost continuous presence of video cameras aimed at me wherever I speak, with their red eyes staring at me. Tonight is the same. We should do the same back to them, if only to serve as a deterrent against overly murderous behaviour. Also, it would help me recognize those who have been tracking me. The next big presentation will be in Kamloops July 8. I’ll see if any by-now familiar faces will show up there. One thing is familiar – their mob behavior. Sometimes I deliberately tested their patience, and there wasn’t much of it there – a veritable powder keg with a short fuse.
Some maintained that WCWC and Bear Watch were one and the same, and that WCWC had unlimited funding, and that the Rear Referendum was nothing but another fund-raiser.
In the crowd was also a conservation officer who operates in the Prince George Omineca region. He differed sharply from the hunters on one point. The hunters always argue that poaching is insignificant, to support their contention that the bear are under little or no pressure and could therefore tolerate the extent of legal hunting they themselves exert upon them.
In contrast, international experts, e.g. Doggett, estimate that for every bear legally killed by hunters, at least one is killed by a poacher – 1:1. Slobodian estimated even 2:1 illegally killed to legally killed. The hunters, on the other hand, and collaborated by the BC Environment Ministry, say only one bear poached for every three to four bears legally hunted – 1:3 to 1:4. This, combined with what environmentalists and preservationists believes to be an inflated official Grizzly bear population estimate of 10,000-13,000 (versus independent biologists’ much more conservative estimate of 4,000-7,000), would give the general public that there are so many bears in the province that not only can they be hunted, but they should be.
The Omineca conservation officer, on the other hand, reported that in his region of Prince George Omineca, the poaching-to-hunting ratio could be as high as 10 to 1! He himself found 14 bear carcasses with just the gall bladders and paws removed over the last few weeks alone. There are only 140 conservation officers to patrol the entire province. A larger force will find more carcasses.
In the end, he came to shake my hand. I pledged to him that I will do all I can to persuade government to hire more conservation officers.
One or two of the hunters also came to shake hands and tried to make peace somehow, in spite of which I was far from being reassured that some post-presentation harassment a la Port Alberni wouldn’t happen. I didn’t tell Carolyn about the highway chase, but on her own accord she suggested that a few of us go to a nearby Tim Horton’s for a night snack. This sounded like a reasonable deterrent, so we went. We were joined by Susan, another of Carolyn’s friends, and a couple who were at the presentation named Dr. Peter Carter and Julie Johnson, both of Prince George.
Julie said, “You must have taken logic and philosophy courses.”
Peter remarked that he perceived the audience undergoing a subtle change, from flat out hostility to a low keyed respect even though they remained sternly in opposition, “having seen that you remained calm and respectful and were obviously genuine. You didn’t change any minds, Anthony, but you converted a few hearts.”
After the night snack, we said good night and God speed, and Carolyn drove me back in her car to her place. I check behind us several times without Carolyn noticing, and saw no one tailing us.
Tomorrow, the real boomies – Dunster. I am currently skirting the far reaches of the province, the outback, in Aussie lingo. The highway I’ll be driving tomorrow is the back road parallel to the BC/Alberta border. I don’t have to be reminded yet again, which the audience tonight again did, and that I’m a hated outsider coming into their communities to tell them what to do, worse, what they can’t do. The confrontation this evening is about as close to a mass lynching as a civilization like Canada would allow.
July 5, 1996, Fri.
The Prince George Citizen
by Gordon Hoekstra
Fur flies at meeting to ban bear hunts
It was barely civil, and sometimes downright ugly.
In the end, it took a campaigner of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee close to two hours to deliver a plea for help to ban bear hunting in BC.
Anthony Marr was interrupted, shouted down and generally abused by hunters that dominated an audience of more than 100 that spilled out of a conference room at the Civic Centre Thursday evening.
The information meeting – sponsored by the Nechako Environmental Coalition – at one point deteriorated into a shouting match between two members in the audience.
Marr had barely begun to explain that the WCWC wants to start a citizen referendum to ban sport and trophy hunting before he was attacked.
“Who’s going to make this decision? The Lower Mainland?” challenged a member of the audience.
When Marr finally finished his slide presentation that began with a history of poaching and hunting of elephants, rhinoceroses and tigers, he had explained that the dwindling population of bears in Asia and escalating demand for bear parts there was putting increasing pressure on bear populations in Canada.
His analysis was that since it was difficult to stop poacher in BC – who by his estimates accounted for at least once if not twice as many kills as licensed hunters – a moratorium on licensed bear hunting was needed to ease pressures on bear populations.
“I plead with you to make a personal sacrifice and stop hunting Grizzly bears,” he said, adding little about Black bears in his presentation.
Marr’s population number were similar to the BC wildlife department’s estimates of 100,000 to 140,000 Black bears, one quarter of Canada’s population, and 10,000 to 13,000 Grizzlies, although he also quoted certain independent biologists’ estimates, which are lower than the governments’.
The annual kill from licensed hunters of Black bears in the recent past averaged about 4,000, and for Grizzlies, from 237 to 368, averaging 323.
Hunters in the audience said Marr should be targeting the Asian countries that buy bear parts and helping those already attempting to stop poachers.
But some in the audience went even further, questioning Marr’s credentials (he’s a geophysicist), his motivation (he started his campaign after he read a TIME article on the decimation of tigers), where he lived (Vancouver), his knowledge of the bush (his geophysical exploration work took him there), and his links to Bear Watch – a radical anti-bear-hunting group (he says he is not a member of the group).
“If you want to ban bear hunting,” exclaimed one audience member, “you’re barking up the wrong tree.”
Marr said, “If you don’t like me barking up your tree, you should get off it.”
The Fortunate and The Called Upon
at your service
Anthony Marr, Founder and President
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC)