The Grizzly Bear: A Slowly Disappearing Symbol of the Canadian Wilderness
Note: This is a guest blog post written by Evelyn Senyi, Digital Marketing Coordinator for the Nature Conservancy of Canada. The Nature Conservancy of Canada is the country’s leading national land conservation organization.
From the coastal forests of British Columbia to the grasslands of the central plains, the grizzly bear once ruled the Canadian wilderness. Weighing in at 100-400 kilograms (220-880 pounds) and standing up to eight feet tall, the solitary grizzly is one of the strongest and most impressive mammals in North America.
Today, grizzlies have been wiped out from an estimated 50% of their historic global range and have lost 98% of their habitat in the lower 48 United States. In Canada, roads, environmental destruction and other human impacts are fragmenting habitats for wildlife populations, including this majestic bear.
Grizzlies require vast tracts of land to survive and thrive as a species — the home range of a male can be up to 2,000 square kilometers or more. They are also the slowest reproducing large carnivore in North America, with females reproducing once every three years. This means that reducing their room to roam also reduces their chances of successfully finding a mate.
Less than 10% of the range currently occupied by grizzlies is classified as protected.
As a result of long-term studies of wide-ranging wildlife populations, conservation scientists have determined that a key priority of our land conservation strategy here in Canada must be the protection and creation of corridors or connectors. Wide-ranging species like grizzlies, elk and lynx cannot survive on isolated islands of protected areas.
These wilderness corridors or connectors act like roadways for wildlife, allowing them to move between areas of natural habitat. Many species have different sites for feeding and reproducing. If one of these sites is destroyed or compromised, corridors are critical to finding new sites.
British Columbia’s Tatlayoko Valley is an example of a vital wildlife corridor that the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is helping to protect. This valley helps maintain connections between the province’s coastal grizzly bear populations and interior bear populations, allowing the species to maintain genetic diversity. NCC has protected several properties in the area so far, including the 940 acre Tatlayoko Lake Ranch.
Alongside conserving habitat, NCC also assists in population surveys for grizzlies in both British Columbia and Alberta. These surveys help researchers understand how protected corridors are helping grizzlies move between larger areas, and determine these bears’ family relationships, as well as their dietary habits and population sizes.
For 50 years, NCC has been working across the country to protect significant, threatened habitat. Working with our donors, partners and Canadians across the country, we’ve helped to conserve more than 2.6 million acres (1 million hectares) so far.
NCC’s goal is to create a network of protected places that includes both large protected areas and natural corridors, so that species like the grizzly bear will have ample room to roam. Working together with landowners, communities and passionate Canadians like you, we can ensure that our children and grandchildren can also enjoy these places and the species that live in them.
If you believe that protecting habitat for endangered species like the grizzly bear is important, please pledge to support conservation efforts to save Canada’s at-risk species today.
Photo: Grizzly bear cub, by Darren Colello