Clayton Stoner, an NHL hockey player from Vancouver Island, has found himself at the centre of a controversy with several B.C. First Nations for shooting a grizzly bear while hunting on a remote section of the West Coast.
The Minnesota Wild defenceman says he shot the grizzly while hunting with a grizzly bear hunting licence issued by the B.C. government as part of the annual lottery.
But the Coastal First Nations alliance has fought the licensed hunting of grizzly bears in the region dubbed the Great Bear Rainforest, and in September 2012 announced their own ban on trophy hunting for bears in the territories of all nine member nations.
According to a statement released by the group, "Last May, trophy hunters shot and killed a five-year-old grizzly bear in B.C.’s Kwatna estuary — an ancient First Nations village site midway between the central coast communities of Bella Bella and Bella Coola."
"The bear, nicknamed 'Cheeky' by local field technicians, was skinned and left to rot in a field. His head and paws were carried out past a sign declaring trophy hunting closed in the Great Bear Rainforest," said a statement released by the Coastal First Nations alliance.
The incident was recorded on video and featured in a short film released by Bears Forever on Wednesday.
The video was posted online this week by the Coastal First Nations alliance, which includes the Wuikinuxv, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Nuxalk, Gitga’at, Metlakatla, Old Massett, Skidegate, and the Council of the Haida Nation.
Clayton Stoner defends right to hunt
The video does not identify the hunters involved, but on Tuesday the Vancouver Sun newspaper released photos of Stoner with the head and paws of a grizzly he had reportedly shot in the area earlier this year. The Globe and Mail reported Stoner told First Nations members at the time that he shot the bear, which was eventually featured in the film.
For his part, Stoner, a 28-year-old from Port McNeill on northern Vancouver Island, defended his actions, saying he grew up hunting on the coast with his family.
"I grew up hunting and fishing in British Columbia and continue to enjoy spending time with my family outdoors," said a statement release by Stoner by his team.
"I applied for and received a grizzly bear hunting licence through a British Columbia limited entry lottery last winter and shot a grizzly bear with my licence 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."
The B.C. government says there are about 15,000 grizzly bears in the province, according to a 2012 estimate. Under the current management plan, about 300 grizzlies are shot by resident and non-resident hunters in B.C. each year.
About 13 are shot by hunters in the Great Bear Rainforest region each year. A grizzly hunting licence costs $1,030 for non-residents of B.C.
On Wednesday, B.C. Premier Christy Clark said people need to remember there is a long tradition of hunting in B.C. and across Canada.
"We have some of the best biological scientists you will find anywhere in the world here in British Columbia, so the hunt for anything is carefully monitored and limited," Clark said. "I am confident they are meeting scientific standards."