In late May a female grizzly bear was hit and killed by a freight train near Banff. The same week wildlife officers had to kill a grizzly bear that had been shot illegally, but was still alive. Seventeen bears there were killed by human actions in 2009. Carl Morrison, a Sierra Club campaigner said of the mortality rate, “Such a high number of human-caused grizzly bear mortalities indicate that the government isn’t taking effective action to implement the grizzly bear recovery plan.”
A post on the Sierra Club’s website back in February, 2010 reported that the grizzly bear population in Alberta was low enough to be changed to threatened species status. So it appears they have been correct for quite a while about the situation. One news story stated the total population is 760, but the Alberta government’s grizzly bear status report says it is only 691.
Because of the recent bear deaths combined with the low and dwindling population, the Alberta government announced the species status has been updated to threatened. “Alberta’s grizzly bear population is one of the most threatened in North America and needs immediate attention to prevent further decline,” said scientist Jeff Gailus.
Grizzly bear hunting has been banned there for several years. Conservationists have said a ban on hunting might help the bears, but the main threat is destruction of their habitat. Invasion of their living space by the creation of roads for logging and energy development have reduced their ability to sustain themselves. Their habitat is also being encroached upon by residential development.
Alberta’s Sustainable Resource Development agency runs a program called BearSmart. This program is intended to educate the public to reduce human to bear conflict and decrease the number of bears that are killed. Part of the program provides an in-person community assessment by Fish and Wildlife staff. They can visit a community and help determine the chance of bear interactions, and help create a bear education program. Another aspect entails establishing garbage and food management to prevent bears from getting into areas where people are living.
Image Credit: Parks Canada