'I didn't think it would create this much controversy': B.C. First Nation in the spotlight for feeding bears
Their efforts to feed starving grizzlies are now putting a Central Coast First Nation band in the international spotlight.
"I didn't think it would create this much of a controversy" says Mamalilikulla First Nation Chief Richard Sumner. "It's certainly brought out lots of opinions from one extreme to the other."
The Mamalilikulla organized a feeding on Sunday, giving 500 pink salmon to the bears they believe are starving in the band's territory in the Knight Inlet area.
The salmon were brought to the area by boat and then distributed on shore by volunteers. A mother and cub were observed by volunteers consuming some of the salmon at the end of their efforts.
The group's actions have brought both praise and condemnation online.
"I've had some advice from bear specialists that say there is no harm being done by doing this. And we have had a lot of public support, even people willing to donate financially to any endeavours that we might take," Sumner says.
While international media was contacting the band about its efforts, Sumner was meeting with representatives of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service as well as officials with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
Sumner says the meeting went well and everyone agreed that more study was needed to see how widespread the hunger problem is in the area.
The Mamalilikulla will be consulting with other wildlife guides in the area, as well as neighbouring nations, to see if they too are noticing problems with emaciated grizzlies.
The band had planned to deliver more fish to the area but the hatchery they were sourcing salmon from says it has been instructed not to by Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Sumner says that decision is "unfortunate, but I guess they feel justified in doing so. Hopefully the few fish we did bring isn't too little too late."