Update On Vancouver Island Black Bears


Published: July - 1998

Bear fanatics have known for many years that Vancouver Island, off the west coast of British Columbia, is wonderfully suited to the production of black bears, most of them jet-black and large-bodied. The favorable elements out that way include a climate that allows bruins to feed almost all year and a host of rich salmon streams that provide a good source of protein. There are also no grizzlies on Vancouver Island to force the resident blackies to tread softly. Strangely, though, the island is not known for producing bears that score high in the record book. The 10th edition of the Boone and Crockett Record Book, for example, has no Vancouver Island bears in it. The most recent SCI Record Book (Edition IX) has only a few bears from the Island, the largest measuring 21 1/16 inches and ranking Number 22. Why so few truly large bears in record-book terms?

Turns out, according to a recent study, the bears on Vancouver Island are genetically different than their brethren elsewhere. The most important difference is the shape of their skulls, which tend to be wider than those of other bears but truncated so as to reduce their total size, which of course means their total score. On the other hand, Vancouver Island bears tend to be truly large in body and wonderfully hairy, with a jet-black texture that makes for superb trophy mounts. Hunts for these bears have always been in great demand and the recent study indicating they are different from their mainland kin has done nothing to dampen demand.

Take the case of Jim Shockey of Pacific Rim Guide Outfitters. This year is Shockey's sixth outfitting bear hunts on Vancouver Island, and he reports having an excellent spring. At least seven bears taken this spring had skulls in the 20-inch-class, he says, and 35 to 40 were in the 19-inch class. Shockey has been aging bears taken by his clients and says 10 years and up is not uncommon. Shockey and one other guide do all the hunting on a 2 x 1 basis. The hunt costs........(continued)

 
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