The Alberta Wilderness Association says the 19 grizzlies killed last year underscore the "grave need for habitat protection."
Photo Credit: Chris Darimont/University of Victoria)

Concern over Alberta’s grizzly bears

Much has been said about the loss of habitat for caribou in this country and how fragmentation of habitat has caused population declines.

Conservationists are once again making the same call, but now also for western Canada’s grizzly bear population.

Grizzy bears are what is termed an “umbrella species” which means that protecting their environment and habitat automatically protects a number of other species which also require large undisturbed habitat.

It is difficult to accurately know grizzly numbers, but current estimates are around between 600 -700 individuals in the western prairie province of Alberta.

The provincial government released statistics last week showing 19 grizzlies were killed last year through accident or poaching.

Grizzly hunting was stopped in 2006, and since then 168 have died in Alberta, 150 from human causes.

The province’s grizzly recovery programme is due to be re-evaluated.

Several groups have pointed to industrial development in the province such as oil and gas exploration, mining and forestry has having created many roads into the wilderness fragmenting ranges through both physical and noise disturbances.

Grizzly individual ranges can be between a few hundred to even a couple of thousand square kilometers.

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Sean Nichols, a spokesperson for the Alberta Wilderness Association, says the province must better manage public lands where grizzlies live.

​”We need to say that enough is enough, and get serious about managing our public lands and how much access we build into them,” said Nichols in a press release. “The proliferation of roads, trails, pipelines and other forms of access into our backcountry is one of the greatest threats to grizzlies and other threatened species”.

Sun news quotes him saying ,” We’re not calling for the halt of all development everywhere, in Alberta, but we do hope there will be some reasonable limits put in place,” he said.

Brian Horejsi (PhD) has been studying grizzlies since the 1970s and has watched the population steadily decline. He says he does not believe the political will is there.

“We’re still looking at a plan that has not been embraced by regulation and if you don’t do that you don’t have a plan,” he said.

He says if nothing changes, Alberta grizzlies will be extinct in the next 50 to 150 years.

with files from CBC


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