A NHL player born in B.C. is the latest person to be embroiled in the province’s bear hunt controversy.
A picture has been released that shows Minnesota Wild defensemen Clayton Stoner, a 28-year-old from Port McNeill, holding the head of a grizzly bear he shot during a hunting trip near Bella Bella.
According to Jessie Housty, a councillor with the Heiltsuk Tribe and member of the Coastal First Nations Bear Working Group, a First Nations technician was invited on Stoner’s boat and took the pictures.
The five-year-old bear was nicknamed ‘Cheeky’ by local field technicians, and was left to rot in a field in BC’s Kwatna estuary.
Hunting grizzlies is legal in British Columbia if you carry a license, but many First nations groups oppose the practice. The Heiltsuk, and nine other groups that are part of the Coastal First Nations alliance, announced in September 2012 they would ban trophy bear hunting on B.C.’s north and central coast.
“This is an issue that needs to be addressed based on principles, not on reputation or occupation,” said Housty. “It’s not about letting people off the hook or vilifying them because they’re happen to be high-profile. The important thing is creating dialogue around this issue.”
In a statement released by the Minnesota Wild, Stoner confirmed he killed the bear.
“I grew up hunting and fishing in British Columbia and continue to enjoy spending time with my family outdoors,” reads the statement.
“I applied for and received a grizzly bear hunting license through a British Columbia limited entry lottery last winter and shot a grizzly bear with my license while hunting with my father, uncle and a friend in May. I love to hunt and fish and will continue to do so with my family and friends in British Columbia.”
Housty says the photo was not supposed to be released, and fears that undue attention will be placed on Stoner rather than trophy hunting. But the Bear Working Group is releasing a short film about trophy hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest tomorrow, and are hopeful the issue gets attention.
“We had no intention of leaking the photo because it’s a bigger issue for us than one hunter. It’s about the hunting culture. It’s not about finding a villain, it’s about stimulating dialogue and changing the narrative we see.
“I think it’s safe to say that we really hope that the focus is on the heart of this issue.”
A phone poll conducted recently by McAllister Opinion Research shows that 87 per cent of British Columbians believe the hunt of bears should be banned, with 78 per cent strongly in favour of the ban. A 2008 poll had a similar result, with 78 per cent also saying the hunt should be banned.