Trophy hunting: Science on its own can’t dictate policy

Chris Darimont is at the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

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Two grizzly bears look at each other across a lake

Trophy hunting of grizzly bears is now banned in British Columbia, Canada.Credit: Andrew S. Wright

A ban on the controversial trophy hunting of grizzly bears (Ursus arctos; pictured) in British Columbia, Canada, comes into force on 30 November. The province’s new government considers the practice to be no longer sustainable — socially, economically or culturally. We are pleased to see an end to the co-opting of science to justify questionable policies.

Poll data have long shown strong opposition (more than 80%) to the trophy hunt, even in rural areas and among hunters. However, some scientists view the decision to ban the hunt as emotional or political, rather than science-based. Claims of numerical sustainability notwithstanding (see B. N. McLellan et al. J. Wildl. Manag. 81, 218–229; 2017), this criticism implies that science can justify the exploitation of wildlife. We strongly disagree (see also K. A. Artelle et al. PLoS ONE 8, e78041; 2013).

Science can predict outcomes of policy options, but how society ought to act is ultimately decided by values. The hunting ban aligns with most of society’s moral compass: trophy hunting of inedible animals is no longer acceptable.

The ban stands to boost bear-based ecotourism, which brings in substantially more revenue than the trophy hunt (M. Honey et al. J. Ecotour. 15, 199–240; 2016). It also conforms to long-standing Indigenous law against trophy hunting, recently formalized by a coalition of sovereign First Nations (see

Nature 551, 565 (2017)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-017-07553-6

C.D. writes on behalf of 4 correspondents (see Supplementary Information for a full list).

Supplementary Information

  1. Darimont Supp info

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