Scientists say B.C. grizzly hunt could hurt recovery efforts in Montana

Alberta’s griz population has already collapsed, B.C.’s grizzly hunt quota too high-

Pitiful Alberta now has fewer grizzly bears now than Montana does, and scientists say that B.C. is going the same direction, most directly affecting Montana in the North Fork of Flathead.

Scientists say B.C. grizzly hunt could hurt recovery efforts in Montana. By Michael Jamison of the Missoulian





  1. Cutthroat Avatar

    Sure the USFWS’s Chris Servheen says here that the bigger threat than the hunt is habitat fragmentation and yet the USFWS issues a “no jeopardy” opinion regarding endangered species with regard to the Rock Creek Mine in the Cabinet Mountains.

  2. Chris Harbin Avatar
    Chris Harbin

    Two hundred and fifty grizz, I would think, is too high. I wonder if the provincial authority takes into account poaching, deaths from auto/RR accidents and other forms of “collateral damage” to the grizz population when setting “harvest” numbers for hunters.

    1. Cutthroat Avatar

      Surely they will tell you they take into account deaths from other causes, population of an area, growth rates, and hunter success rates to determine whether the hunt will have a negative effect on bear populations prior to issuing any permits. Part of the problem lies in whether their data is reliable or bias to meet the needs of a resource industry friendly government.

      Here is a recent report with numbers from another source:

  3. Chris Harbin Avatar
    Chris Harbin

    Thanks for the link. I glanced through it before reading it. I guess the rest of page 14 is on someone’s floor or wall? What a waste.

  4. Linda Hunter Avatar

    Since the reports make it abundantly clear that hunting grizzly bears will hasten their demise as a species along with habitat loss . . habitat loss is harder to control than hunting so why oh why do they not just put the brakes on hunting grizzly bears? Nobody eats them. The money that hunting grizzlies generates does not add to the overall economy of an area, only a few people benefit . . I do not understand the difficulty in just doing the right thing here and severely limiting the hunt.

  5. SEAK Mossback Avatar
    SEAK Mossback

    Actually, after looking at their table of allowable mortality rates in B.C. (generally 2 to 4%), I would have to think Chris Servheen is right that the target is likely conservative – particularly if they stuck to it and accounted for all mortalities. The general consensus seems to be that grizzly populations can withstand human-related mortality up to 6%, with 4% often being chosen as a limit for hunting to be on the conservative side (I see a 4% limit was set for all mortalities in Yellowstone where the goal was to grow the bear population, not just maintain it at a stable level). On Kodiak, where the population has been well studied and granted may be more productive than interior grizzlies, the sport harvest alone is about 5.5% of the total population and 7.8% of independent bears, and is about 75% males. Add in other mortalities (including a small subsistence harvest and defense-of-life-and-property kills) and it is about 6.2% of all bears and about 9% of independent bears.

    Of course, the question usually is “4% of what number?” The authors point to some genetic studies with lower estimates. I don’t know anything about how those might have been conducted, but do know that for animals that are somewhat creatures of habit like grizzly bears the assumptions of a mark-recapture study can be easily violated unless the study is quite thorough and/or the researchers have a lot of knowledge of bear movement patterns and behavior ahead of time. Generally, the estimates tend to be biased low. Just one example, is the studies done around here using breakaway snares with barbed wire set on trails to snag hair from only one bear that walks through it. Remote camera footage shows that some bears bowl right through the snares every time and leave a nice sample while others are very attuned to them, sometimes sniffing them, and usually back up and go around. Some of the earlier studies assumed all bears in dense salmon country come to salmon streams – and that caused major under-estimates. However, nitrogen isotope sampling and radio collaring bears in the alpine has shown that many bears, particularly sows, on islands like Admiralty and Chichagof that are ringed by salmon streams, never come down eat salmon. Dominant males are a powerful force regulating bear populations, particularly by killing cubs, so many bears choose to stay up on the mountains where they must be sorely tempted by the wonderful stench emanating out of every river valley.

    In my first year or so in Yellowstone, we used to go watch grizzlies feeding in the dumps. The Craigheads warned that making them go cold turkey might knock out the population. The Park Service, being hidebound and arrogant, ignored the Craigheads and then gave them the boot while carrying out its abrupt new policy, preferring to fly blind rather than have potential critics in a position to tell them whether they were right or wrong. Of course the dump bears went straight into the campgrounds, so the Park Service started tagging and transporting them out to remote areas and then killing them when they returned (I remember the special thrill of be camping with my mother on the southeast arm of Yellowstone Lake (Trail Creek, I believe?), before the days of pepper spray, and watching a helicopter sling a yellow bag into a meadow behind our camp and leave without it). In any case, the Craigheads knew an awful lot about dump grizzlies, but fortunately, just like some of ours that never eat salmon, there were also many that never went to dumps and therefore weren’t part of their research population.

    Linda – I have actually eaten a fair amount of grizzly bear and it was quite good. A few years ago, we rafted to an airstrip where two people had shot one the evening before in self defense right next to their tent. They took the backstraps and my wife scavenged most of the rest. I have never had any desire to hunt them but believe salvage of meat should be required from grizzly bears, particularly from interior bears and in the spring. Our local homeless shelter used to serve a lot of donated bear meat with few customer complaints, but unfortunately was stopped by the health department due to concern about trichinosis.

  6. Si'vet Avatar

    Mossback, very good post, great read, good numbers thanks.

  7. Linda Hunter Avatar

    Mossback .. I stand corrected but in my experience when a couple of guys came bear hunting near where I was in Alaska we found the bear they shot, (one we knew well) and all they took of her was her paws, fur and head. The meat was all left on the ground.(looking very much like a dead human) They were subsistence hunters as well so I really didn’t understand. She was just a three year old with a beautiful coat and a great personality. Too bad whoever ended up with her fur never got to know what a character she was and too bad she never had the chance to leave some cubs behind. Perhaps you can understand my position.

  8. SEAK Mossback Avatar
    SEAK Mossback

    Linda – I understand. I’ve met a lot of people who move here with bagging a brown bear near the top of their to-do list, but usually if they spend any time around bears it drops off right off their list.

    There’s a couple that’s worked on a remote weir since 1990, where they often go the entire fall without seeing anybody but the pilot who brings their groceries. They absolutely love having the bears around all day and observing their interesting individual habits and antics. In September 1993, a new guide with packer and client walked up from saltwater and shot the most regular, regular, a young sow (named Pooch) that the weir crew had enjoyed watching for a couple of years, and had just hazed away because she was trying to pounce on recovering cohos they were releasing after sampling. It was an unhappy day for everybody involved with the guide, who had apparently not yet seen the weir, apologizing profusely and the client (who probably paid $10–12K for the experience) looking like he wanted to throw up as the weir technician explained what they knew of her life and habits from having her hanging around yards away for a couple of seasons. An experienced guide would have been able to judge the bear’s size and known the weir was there and that only smaller subdominant bears and sows with cubs gravitate toward weirs and human encampments where there’s safety from the more reclusive large males.

    The next season, another young female (Tess) moved right into Pooch’s spot and has been there ever since. One year, Tess who by then had grown to an impressive presence, showed up with triplets that seemed to go into the fall fat and healthy. But, the next summer she appeared back at the weir all alone. In all the years, they’ve only had one other pair of bear hunters show up and there just happened not to be a bear on the weir at the time. They were politely invited inside the wall tent and entertained until it was time to (somewhat noisily) guide them on a more direct and convenient backwoods route back to their boat. A couple of years ago, a good sized adult washed up on the weir with a “bullet hole” through it’s nose, which raised considerable alarm (nobody had been seen in weeks and no shot heard) until it was determined by a wildlife biologist to have been caused by a bite from another bear. This past fall they found the remains of a bear likely killed by another bear.

    The point is the country is practically oozing bears and, despite large salmon runs in recent years, the population is showing typical signs of regulating itself through intra-species strife and predation. Surely, there’s capacity in the population for some harvest by hunters. That’s really the only issue I’ve raised about the campaign to curtail grizzly hunting in B.C. I have trouble believing the situation I described is that much different, particularly in the Taku River watershed and other remote watersheds in the province. Not being a bear hunter myself, I’m not going to try to convince people who don’t approve of it to change their minds. However, there are some local bear guides who quietly and competently (and as far as I know discriminately, legally and ethically) guide a handful of clients each on bear hunts as an important part of their annual household income. They are certainly included in and represented by our regional environmental group (SEACC) that represents the wide spectrum of people who use and benefit from the forest in sustainable ways, without damaging the other uses (as decades of industrial clear-cut forestry has done). In fact, bear guides were some of the first to raise awareness about Admiralty Island and start the campaign to eventually set most of it aside from clear-cut logging. It seems like the environmental movement in B.C has put just about every use of the forest and its fish and wildlife in its sights (except maybe eco-tourism) which really dilutes the focus and rationale for their campaign against the primary threat – loss of habitat, including wide-scale loss of coastal mixed-age, old-growth forest to multinational timber corporations. They must play to a very different constituency.

  9. Elk275 Avatar

    Excellent post. I agree with you 100% percent. I feel that Montana needs and could use a grizzly season on male bears. In the 1970’s and early 80’s there was a season and today there are enough bears to allow a limited harvest, but there are those who think grizzly hunting or any hunting is wrong. I have never had a desire to shoot a large bear and have had opportunities when I lived in Alaska. Maybe one day.