Grizzly Bears Concerns
The underlying cause of Alberta’s low grizzly bear population is habitat disturbance. Alberta’s mountains and foothills are traversed by a huge network of industrial access roads. Of 172 reported human-caused grizzly mortalities on provincial lands, 89% were within 500m of a road (Benn 1998).
Industrial roads allow increased access for both legal and illegal hunters. Grizzly bears are notoriously sensitive to disturbance. In the fall, grizzly bears need to feed extensively to build up the fat reserves to last them through the winter. Disturbances reduces the efficiency of feeding and may have an impact on the winter survival rate of hibernating bears.
Alberta’s grizzly bears have the lowest known productivity in North America. Females first produce cubs at age 4 - 8 years; litter size ranges from 1.4 - 2.2 cubs per litter; and mean interval between litters ranges from 3.0 - 4.4 years. This means that keeping grizzly bears alive, particularly adult females is vital. Current long-term mortality levels are too high to sustain the Alberta population.
Spring Grizzly Bear Hunt
In 2006, the government placed a three-year moratorium on the grizzly bear hunt pending additional population studies. AWA continues to oppose the spring grizzly hunt in Alberta. AWA believes the grizzly should be listed as a threatened species, as recommended by the government’s Endangered Species Conservation Committee and that threatened species should not be hunted. The hunt is not supportable on scientific, ethical or economic grounds.
The grizzly bear hunt is not the reason that grizzly bears in Alberta are in trouble. Suspending the hunt has not "fixed" the grizzly's troubles. A number of major steps must be taken if we are going to keep grizzly bears in Alberta. Other vital measures include:
- Designate the grizzly as a ‘threatened’ species, as recommended by the government’s Endangered Species Sub Committee and Grizzly Bear Recovery Team.
- Prevent the loss of grizzly habitat. Legislated protection of key habitat areas, such as the Bighorn, Castle and Chinchaga is vital.
- Introduce measures to reduce the enormous network of industrial roads throughout the foothills and boreal forest.
- In a Calgary Herald poll, September 23 2009, 78% of respondents agreed that grizzly bears should be designated an endangered species in Alberta.
- In the 2007 Land-Use Framework Workbook Summary Report, 71.5% of respondents would be “willing to accept limits to Energy development to allow for more Habitat protection”.
- In a poll of visitors to Banff National Park, 75% of respondents said it was 'morally wrong' to kill grizzly bears 'in most circumstances'; and 61% believe grizzly bear hunting should be stopped. Only 15% would visit a park without grizzlies.
- A recent report by the Raincoast Conservation Society and the Centre for Integral Economics examining both the ecotourist and hunting industries, concludes that bears in British Columbia are worth almost twice as much alive - $6.1 million annually - as dead.