Hunting in the Flathead

Hunting represents a deep cultural tradition in southeastern British Columbia. Hunters pursue their quarry as part of enjoying the freedom of the great outdoors in addition to providing food for their families and returning to their communities with memorable stories of the chase. Hunters are a diverse group.

Protected areas can include private lands, management designated ‘security areas’, and provincial and federal parks (Burham et al. 1999, Hillis et al.1991, McLellan pers. comm.). Each of these kinds of refuges functions at a different scale and effectiveness. Generally, refuges allow animals to live longer and grow larger, and provide improved hunting quality at their perimeter.

A recent scientific panel established by the government of B.C. said that though grizzly bear hunting could continue in B.C. without threatening the population province-wide, in southern B.C. there must be sanctuaries established for them to remain healthy.

Protected areas act as sanctuaries for game species. Deer, moose, elk, and bear all recognize the benefits of the security provided by these areas. In some cases, these animals seek out protected areas on a seasonal basis. Others establish their home territories within them. Regardless, animal populations tend to increase in protected areas to the point that individuals and groups of animals expand their range beyond the boundaries of the secure area. Thus protected areas act as a source of animals to outlying areas and to the hunting public.

Recent research in the Flathead (Weaver 2003) demonstrates that game animals move seasonally from summer to winter areas and back. Portions of these populations even move across the Canadian–U.S. border. As older animals move out of protected areas they offer the hunter a greater chance of harvesting a trophy-sized animal.

Proponents of protected areas and sanctuaries understand that protected areas aid more than a single species, such as grizzly bear or elk. Protected areas provide sanctuary for a wide variety of species, plant and animal, that are indigenous to a locale. In establishing sanctuary areas, all resources and all ‘users’ benefit.


Fast Facts

  • Protected areas improve hunting at their perimeter by producing more and larger game animals
  • The proposed sanctuary area is already very limited to hunting. No motorized assistance can be used to aid any hunting activities. However, guide outfitters are exempt from this restriction
  • The proposed sanctuary would only restrict hunting in the farthest Southeastern third of BC's Flathead River Valley
  • Deer, elk, moose and bear in particular benefit from protected areas
  • Establishing a protected core area will conserve and enhance big game hunting and wildlife in the Flathead.



“Most people will agree that hunting may be better (more bears, and in particular larger bears) near protected areas, where bears can live longer and thus attain higher densities and larger size.” - Bruce McLellan, Wildlife Biologist 

“Refugia that are not hunted can be an important component in managing bear populations or sustainable harvests…Refugia that are closed to hunting, where bears can occur at or near carrying capacity, can be an important source of emigrants that can buffer overharvesting in surrounding areas...”

“A sound conservation strategy for species like grizzly bears is by nature multi-faceted, consisting of a suite of protective measures…the presence of a network of protected areas without bear hunting offers a safeguard against errors in quota allocations in neighbouring areas.” - Management of Grizzly Bears in British Columbia: A Review by an Independent Scientific Panel, March 6, 2003, James Peek et al.