Grizzly Bears Introduction
The grizzly bear is one of the most glamorous and prestigious wildlife species in Alberta. Seen by many as the perfect symbol of Alberta's untamed wilderness, the grizzly is nevertheless under enormous pressure in the province. Grizzly bears once ranged across the whole of Alberta. With the extirpation of the plains grizzly in the late 1800's, their range is now restricted to the Rocky Mountains, Foothills and northwestern parts of the Boreal forest.
The Alberta government's 2010 report, Status of the Grizzly Bear in Alberta, puts Alberta's current population estimate at 691 bears (not including parts of the National Parks). This figure is the result of a 5-year DNA population survey carried out by provincial grizzly bear scientists. To put this number in perspective, in 2002, when the population was believed to be 1,000 bears, the government’s Endangered Species Conservation Committee recommended that the grizzly should be designated a threatened species. This recommendation was finally adopted by the Alberta government in June 2010.
Grizzly habitat is under pressure from industrial activity, particularly the enormous network of industrial roads, cut lines and seismic lines throughout the province. The Alberta Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan makes it clear that “Human use of access (specifically, motorized vehicle routes) is one of the primary threats to grizzly bear persistence.”
The plan concludes that “Bears and humans can coexist on the same landscape if there is a willingness to conduct human activities in ways that are conducive to grizzly bear conservation.” Grizzly bears cannot survive without greatly improved protection of their habitat. AWA is working towards protection of key grizzly bear habitat in areas such as the Castle Wilderness, Bighorn Wildland, Little Smoky, Kakwa and Chinchaga.
- Although Alberta has a credible grizzly recovery plan, enforcement of that plan has been minimal. The provincial government needs to reaffirm its commitment to recovering grizzlies, rather than just maintaining the current threatened population. This will require a dedicated budget for grizzly recovery.
- Ultimately, the only thing that will recover grizzlies in the long term is protection of secure habitat. There is an urgent need for legislated protection of core areas of grizzly habitat. In other areas, human access into grizzly habitat needs to be restricted.
- Human-caused mortality of grizzlies needs to be reduced. This needs to be a comprehensive program, including a combination of access management, comprehensive and funded Bearsmart programs, and hunter education.
- May Be At Risk (Alberta's Wildlife Act)
- Finally designated a threatened species by Alberta Government in June 2010
- Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan passed 2008
- Spring grizzly bear hunt suspended for three years, February 2006. Suspension renewed on a year-by-year basis since then
- From the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada:
Special Concern on Schedule 3, pending public consultation for addition to Schedule 1. (Schedule 1 is the official list of species that are classified as extirpated, endangered, threatened and of special concern)
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