Quebec’s Environment and Wildlife Department announced that the Quebec is going to prohibit the possession and trade of bear gall bladders that are used in traditional Chinese medicine. This will start in 1998, according to Quebec’s Minister of Environment and Wildlife, David Cliche. Cliche also said there will also be new kill limits. Trappers will be allowed only one or two bears per trapline and hunters will only be allowed to take one this year instead of two. All this is part of a new 1998-2002 bear management plan that Cliche unveiled in June.
The minister says the new bear management plan is a result of public consultation. Cliche, in a press release, says he has the support of numerous wildlife groups in Quebec. He also says he was delighted with the interest shown by hunters and trappers across Quebec.
It was less than a delighted interest, though, by the CCCQ. Before the full measures were announced the Crees responded through the Hunting, Fishing, Trapping Coordinating Committee (HFTCC) in May. Johnny Peters, the Chairperson of the HFTCC, sent a strongly worded letter to the Cliche. It said that Crees have the inherent right to sell all parts of the bear and that this prohibition couldn’t apply to them as this right is guaranteed in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.
Cliche acknowledged that the Crees did indeed have this right but asked that the Crees follow the plan.
Peter’s letter, though, had already said that the Crees had no objection to a Quebec ban as long as it does not apply to the Cree beneficiaries. It also stated that there was no conservation problem in the territory so there was no valid reason to attempt to supersede the Cree rights concerning black bears. It said the intention of the government to ban the sale of black bear gall bladders is unacceptable to the Cree.
The letter goes on to say that the sale of gall bladders only adds a small but much-needed amount of revenue to the trappers’ income. The GCCQ points out that charts of the Cree Trappers’ Association show that the Cree haven’t over-exploited the bears at all. In fact they show a declining revenue from bear gall bladder revenue for the Cree trappers and hunters as a whole. (See CTA graphs for revenue generated from the sales of all bear parts.) The GCCQ and the CTA feel that these charts show a balanced hunting practice by the Crees and if exploitation was taking place the numbers would be going up drastically.
Minister Cliche defended the province saying they are trying to upgrade their image. Quebec is currently seen as the world hub for illegal trade in bear gall bladders. He also said this could have consequences in developing resources including the fur trade. Quebec would be the last Canadian province to prohibit the sale of gall bladders. Cliche said he would be happy to discuss this matter at the next HFTCC meeting with the members.
Another official at Environment Quebec says the black bear population is in some danger. At present there are 60,000 black bears in Quebec. The ministry says they are sensitive to exploitation, and the sharp rise in hunting and trapping doesn’t respect the annual productivity requirement of the bear population.
The data that convinced Cliche’s ministry was taken almost exclusively from the southern and central hunting zones of Quebec. One of the figures that the department cites is that hunting and trapping has tripled in the past 10 years. Environment and Wildlife says that over 5,000 bears were harvested last year.
THE BEAR FACTS AND NOTHING ELSE
The black bear, as many know from recent press, have been involved in two attacks this summer (Ontario and B.C.) In the western world bears are often seen as living teddy bears or vicious killers. In reality the bear is simply a powerful animal that is getting pushed into smaller and smaller habitats. This means they will come into contact more and more with humans while foraging for food.
Black bears, however, don’t deserve the bad press they’ve been getting lately. Only 28 deaths in the past century have been recorded. That’s an average of one every three years. By comparison for every death by a bear there are: 17 deaths from spiders, 25 from snakes, 67 from dogs, 150 from tornadoes, 180 from bees and wasps, 374 from lightning and 90,000 homicides (man killing man). Since there are visitors to the Cree territory, here are a few tips for safety.
Tips for those wishing to avoid bears:
Make noise while walking in the woods. It’s safer to travel in groups than alone.
Your family pet, man’s best friend, the dog, can bring bears right back to you when the dog returns from an investigation. Some people say to leave the dog on a leash just to be safe if there’s a bear in the area.
If you see a bear but it’s far away and doesn’t see you, then turn around and go back or circle far around. Do not disturb.
If you see a bear that is close to you or it sees you, stay calm. Bear attacks are rare. It may approach or stand on its hind legs to get a better look at you. It is being curious. Be human, stand tall, wave your arms and speak in a loud and low voice. Do not run. Stand your ground or back away slowly and diagonally. If the bear starts to follow then stop.
If a bear charges remember that almost all charges are bluff charges. Do not run. Not even Johnathan Bailey can outrun a bear. If you run you trigger an instinctive reaction to chase. Do not climb a tree unless it’s next to you and you can get up at least 30 feet quickly. Stand your ground, wave your arms and speak in a loud and low voice. Bears have been known to come within a few feet of a person and veer off seemingly at the last second.
If a bear approaches your campsite, shoot it. If you don’t have a gun, aggressively chase it away. Make noise with pots and pans, throw rocks and if needed hit the bear. Do not let the bear get any food.
If you have surprised a bear and are contacted or attacked, play dead. Struggling will encourage attack. Lie flat on your stomach. An alternative is to curl up in a ball with your hands laced behind your neck. Lie still and keep silent. Surprised bears usually stop attacking once you are no longer a threat (i.e. dead).
If you are stalked by a bear (it’s approaching your campsite) or an attack is continuing long after you have stopped struggling, fight back! Predatory bears are often young bears that can be intimidated or chased away. Use a stick or your hands and feet if nothing else is available. Go for a poke in the eye if you can.
It’s best to always have a gun for protection if you’re going into the bush.