Letter: Requesting protection of coastal bear dens

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Helen Davis Artemis Wildlife 
Consultants Victoria, 
B.C. V8X 2W5 
Email: hdavis@artemiswildlife.com 

August 13, 2019 

The Honourable John Horgan, M.L.A. 
Premier of British Columbia 
Office of the Premier 
PO Box 9041 Stn Prov Govt 
Victoria, B.C. V8W 9E1 

Dear Premier, 

We, the undersigned First Nation, biologists, environmental organizations, conservationists and wildlife-based businesses respectfully request the government of British Columbia to protect winter den sites of American black bears on Vancouver Island and across coastal B.C. 

Black bears are a key charismatic species of coastal forests that require secure and dry winter den sites to successfully survive the winter denning period. Black bears den in structures associated with standing and downed large-diameter trees (mean diameter of hollow tree dens=160 cm) that primarily occur in old-growth forests. Despite the government’s own research in the early 1990s that highlighted the need for protective winter den sites, these critical habitat features are not protected by any regulation and can be, and are, cut down as part of normal forest operations in coastal B.C. Collaboratively working with members from the Green Party of B.C. to conserve these important habitat features will showcase this government’s commitment to wildlife and the habitats they depend upon. Loss of these necessary structures will have long-term implications for the sustainability of black bear populations in coastal B.C., as cubs can only be born and raised in secure den sites; it is not possible for the species to reproduce without these critical habitat features. 


• Logging of old-growth forests on Vancouver Island over the past 100+ years has greatly reduced the supply of trees that bears can use for denning. 
• Cutblocks are not surveyed for bear dens, so dens are often not found before harvesting. 
• Current forest management practices do not allow second- and third-growth trees to develop to a sufficient size for recruitment of natural dens to occur. 
• Suitable den sites need to occur across the landscape, not concentrated in widely-spaced reserves because bears do not generally travel outside their home range to den. 
• Den sites are used for decades (or longer) and by successive generations of bears. 

The B.C. government currently protects winter black bear den sites on Haida Gwaii and in the Great Bear Rainforest but not on Vancouver Island or across the rest of coastal B.C. (where old forests are rarer). It is imperative that the B.C. government move swiftly to rectify this grave oversight by the Liberal government and enact regulatory protection for existing dens (whether occupied or not). To achieve this important conservation outcome, regulatory mechanisms, such as adding protection of bear dens to the Wildlife Act and designating dens as ‘wildlife habitat features’, could successfully be employed. Also needed is planning for recruitment of forest stands to provide future dens in the West and South Coast Forest Regions. 
We, the undersigned, respectfully ask for a meeting between yourself and bear biologist and researcher, Helen Davis, at your earliest convenience to discuss this important wildlife conservation issue. 


• Pacheedaht First Nation 
• Ainslie Willock, Director, Canadians for Bears 
• Al Peatt, R.P.Bio., F.A.P.B. 
• Barrie Gilbert, Ph.D., Conservation Ecologist 
• Bears Matter Consulting 
• Bonny Glambeck, Clayoquot Action 
• Bryce Casavant, Doctoral Candidate Royal Roads University 
• Charlotte Dawe, Conservation and Policy Campaigner, Wilderness Committee 
• Chris Darimont, Ph.D., Raincoast Chair & Associate Professor - University of Victoria; Science Director - Raincoast Conservation Foundation 
• Christine Miller, Executive Director, North Shore Black Bear Society 
• Helen Davis, R.P.Bio., Bear Biologist 
• Ian McAllister, Pacific Wild 
• John E. Marriott, Canadian Wildlife Photography Tours 
• Julius Strauss, Grizzly Bear Ranch 
• Kevin Smith, President, Maple Leaf Adventures 
• Kyle Artelle, Ph.D., Postdoctoral fellow, University of Victoria; biologist, Raincoast Conservation Foundation 
• Liz White, Director, Animal Alliance of Canada and Leader, Animal Protection Party of Canada 
• Randy Burke, Director, Bluewater Adventures 
• Sylvia Dolson, Executive Director, Get Bear Smart Society 
• Valhalla Foundation for Ecology 
• Valhalla Wilderness Society 
• Wayne P. McCrory, R.P.Bio. 

CC The Honourable Doug Donaldson, M.L.A., Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development The Honourable George Heyman, M.L.A., Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy