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B.C. ban on hunting grizzly bears may be temporary

A controversial three-year moratorium on hunting grizzly bears in British Columbia, which came into effect yesterday, may not last very long.

Moments after Premier Ujjal Dosanjh announced the ban on hunting, Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell said a Liberal government would ensure proper management of the grizzly bear population through a review panel of scientists -- and not by a moratorium.

With the support of more than 50 per cent in recent polling, the Liberals are expected to easily win a provincial election which must be held this spring.

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The province's own wildlife branch has said that the available scientific information does not justify a moratorium, Mr. Campbell said, referring to an environment ministry briefing note.

The moratorium was "a crass political scheme aimed at selling out rural British Columbians to buy urban votes," he also said.

Mr. Dosanjh announced the hunting ban after significant local pressure and an international advertising campaign by several environmental groups. About 400 bears are killed annually in B.C.

A group of 68 biologists have called for a moratorium until comprehensive population studies were completed. More than 100 tourism operators have also called for an end to the hunt. The most recent public-opinion poll, taken five years ago, showed 77 per cent of British Columbians wanted a ban.

Mr. Dosanjh told reporters yesterday the decision to shut down the popular grizzly bear hunt was one of the toughest decisions of his life.

The hunt means about $200-million in economic activity in B.C.

A 10-day hunt can cost as much as $14,000.

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Nevertheless, a temporary ban was necessary to allow time for scientists to count the bears.

The provincial wildlife branch estimates the bear population to range between 10,000 to 13,000 but anti-hunt groups use the estimate of 4,000 to 6,000 bears.

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