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 has left many populations of this iconic giant on the brink of extinction.
The grizzly bear is now virtually non-existent in Canada’s southern provinces outside of British Columbia and Alberta and the few remaining populations of grizzly that straddle the Canada-US border in BC and Alberta 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 around 580, 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 in the north and have been listed as a species of concern. Southern BC populations are listed as threatened or endangered, with each population numbering fewer than 100. However the BC government seem unwilling to take any action based on grizzlies’ vulnerable status. In fact in BC the majority of grizzlies continue to be hunted for sport, despite the fact that tourism revenue is far greater than that from grizzly trophy hunting. The government are also unwilling to perform even the most simplest of wildlife management techniques in northern BC – an accurate population count!
Although Alberta has taken the step of banning hunting, neither the BC or Alberta government have offered grizzlies any real form of protection, in fact they both did the very opposite by disbanding Grizzly Bear Recovery Teams, and ignoring the scientific justification for habitat protection.
BC and Alberta’s grizzly populations are in jeopardy and we need our governments to set aside a budget to start recovery efforts now! They also need to upgrade grizzly’s status to endangered or threatened in northern BC, protect all critical habitat, reduce human conflict and implement science-based research and recovery.
The only way to get government to act is for citizens to stand up and demand that their voices be heard.