Grizzly bears hold a special place in our hearts and conjure up images of rugged and unspoiled wilderness. But conflict with humans and habitat encroachment have left many populations of this iconic giant on the brink of extinction. The grizzly bear has been eliminated from the Canadian prairies where it was once abundant. In British Columbia and Alberta the few remaining populations of grizzly that straddle the mountainous Canada-US border are in big trouble.
Grizzlies need abundant wilderness to survive, a wilderness that is fast disappearing. One of the major threats to the grizzly population is the increase of motorized human access and associated developments like ski resorts in the back-country and highways, which impede grizzly movement. Conflict with humans, logging and oil and gas exploration also have devastating affects.
Grizzly bears historically ranged from Alaska down to Mexico and as far east as Manitoba. Only 200 years ago as many as 6000 bears would have roamed the lands we now call Alberta. That number now stands at below 600, much lower than 1000 threshold that designates them as a threatened species.
In BC, numbers of grizzlies are estimated to be between 6,000 – 17,000. The non-precise population numbers in BC are reflective of low government funding for research and inventory.
Although Alberta and recently BC have taken the step of banning the sport hunting of grizzly bears, neither the BC or Alberta government have offered grizzlies enough protection from habitat loss or support for recovery efforts.
Many of BC and Alberta’s grizzly populations are now in grave jeopardy of disappearing and we need our governments to ramp up habitat protection and recovery efforts now!
It took decades of demanding an end to the sport hunting of grizzlies before the bloody practice was finally ended in BC and Alberta. Now we must increase our efforts to get proper habitat protection and funding to help endangered populations to recover. The only way to get governments to act is for citizens to stand up and demand that their voices be heard.
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