Brandi Hansen said she felt her heart drop when she found dozens of bear paws discarded on a North Shuswap road over the Victoria Day long weekend.
The Anglemont-area resident said she was out on a drive with her family on Sunday, May 23, when they came across the paws around the five-kilometre mark along Estate Drive (off of Squilax-Anglemont and Fraser roads). Several paw were on the road, but most were in an adjacent culvert.
Hansen, an avid hunter and outdoor enthusiast, said at first glance the paws looked somewhat like human hands. But after stopping to take a closer look, she knew quickly what they were and was taken aback by the gruesome discovery.
“It was disheartening was the best way I can describe it,” Hansen said, adding cub paws were also present.
Hansen contacted the Conservation Officer Service and said an investigation is underway. Her best guest is that poachers may have been responsible. While some have suggested to her that it may have been a taxidermist, and the thought has crossed her mind, Hansen has a difficult time believing that was the case. She said the paws had been hacked off at the joint, most were declawed and some still had fur on them.
“No taxidermist that I know would just dump randomly like that – they incinerate or bury their carcasses,” Hansen said. “What happened up there was a potential offence under the Wildlife Act and nobody is going to risk their licence for a $60,000 fine and up to six months imprisonment to dump that there.”
Hansen, who also considers herself an environmentalist, said she was offended by where the paws were dumped — drainage culvert not far from Shuswap Lake.
“Seeing this kind of atrocity was just disturbing,” she said.
The Union of BC Indian Chiefs has also weighed in, issuing a statement that calls the discovery of the bear paws “cruel, unlawful poaching that violates game laws and Indigenous values.”
The organization said the bear paws — between 80 and 100, representing between 20 and 25 bears — indicate the actions of trophy or commercial poachers “who hold a complete lack of respect for wildlife, hunting laws, and the rights of other resource users.”
“Trophy hunting or poaching goes against Indigenous hunting practices and UBCIC urges hunters to hunt, fish and trap sustainably and ethically, never for unwarranted bloodshed and the glorification of violence,” the union added.
The Shuswap Nation Tribal Council also weighed in.
“This act of desecration has not gone unnoticed by our nation’s communities and can be felt through the spirits of our people,” the council said in a release.
“As caretakers of the land, we condemn the dishonour of our sacred animal integral to our health and well-being.”
The council said a ceremony will be held to honour the bears to “ensure they are given the respect they deserve.”
Hansen has many questions and she hopes investigating conservation officers will be able to find answers. She also hopes people will not assume hunters are to blame. If anything, she said, the incident is something that will unite hunters and those opposed to the sport.
“We’re going to unify here and report everything that’s not ethical that we see in the forest, like poaching. We’re both interested in that, that’s both of our business, we’re both going to report that to conservation … that’s where we can both connect and be on the same page,” Hansen said.
Anybody with information is asked to contact the B.C. RAPP (Report All Poachers and Polluters) line at 1-877-952-7277.