Will they become a Canadian threatened species?

To many Americans, Canada is still the “great white north” where multitudes of wildlife live in wilderness and “tree huggers” silly enough to want to see a bear or a wolf can go a see one behind almost every tree.

The reality is massive development, and especially in Alberta which has become essentially a petro-state.

Alberta’s government seems to sort of be moving toward more protection such as a permanent cancellation of the annual grizzly bear hunt against the strong resistance of some hunting groups.

A recent 5-year study that included most of Alberta (not its far north or Jasper and Banff*) using the most effect method — DNA analysis of bear fur — found only 581 bears. They had expected about a thousand. This is fewer than Montana’s grizzly population in and around Glacier National Park and adjacent Wilderness areas and backcountry.

The Alberta grizzly might be put on the Canadian threatened species list.

Here are a couple stories from the last few days.

While many think of these two national parks as a stronghold of the grizzly, there are not large populations there because their rugged nature means most of the Parks are not good bear habitat. Moreover, the biologically production areas are often filled with highways, towns, resorts, and railroads.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

4 Responses to Alberta grizzlies down to just 580 bears

  1. avatar Devin says:

    Hey Ralph, I’m just curious to know the methods to getting the number of bears in the province.

    This is sad news for sure. It still amazes me that people still want to say that there is no such thing as global climate change even when the results are right in front of their eyes.

  2. avatar Jeff N. says:

    I think people see the sheer size, in acreage, of Jasper, Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks and think it is Canada’s version of wildlife paradise. This however is not true, because as has been stated, much of this parkland is not prime wildlife habitat, stunning scenery, but marginal habitat.

    I saw my first wild grizz in Banff back in the early 90’s right next to the main highway that slices thru the best habitat in Banff. It was an adult that probably weighed no more than 200 lbs. , not the best habitat and add to that a major north/south highway right thru it’s very heart.

    The province of Alberta equals an extension of the U.S. Rocky Mountain west in regard to natural resource exploitation and wildlife management.

  3. avatar Aaron M.C. says:

    Devin,

    He mentioned the method of counting the number of bears was DNA analysis of fur. I’m assuming they conclude the number depending on how many different bear DNA’s they collect. As each living thing has its own unique DNA.

  4. I attended a lecture on how this is done. Some studies are more complete, and so more accurate, than others.

    It is impossible to gather bear fur from the entire province (or a state for that matter), so a grid is developed for the study area, and the number of bears in selected squares are determined exactly. This number is then extrapolated to squares of similar habitat. The more squares in the grid that are actually surveyed, the more accurate the study.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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