Tag Archives: Peer-Reviewed Scientific Reports on Grizzly populations

Bears and roads don’t mix, say U of A grizzly researchers

‘Maintaining a large roadless area was critical to maintaining a large population of grizzly bears’ CBC News January 9, 2018


The science is stacking up on the need to close some roads, especially those first constructed for resource extraction, to improve struggling grizzly bear populations in Western Canada.

Higher road density leads to lower grizzly bear density, says population ecologist Clayton Lamb, a PhD candidate at the University of Alberta. He co-authored a study that appears Tuesday in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

In 2015, Lamb and fellow researchers collected grizzly bear hair samples across an 8,000-square-kilometre area in the Monashee Mountains, east of the Okanagan.

The area has been heavily affected by the logging industry, with about 1.6 kilometres of road for every square kilometre of wilderness land area.

“If you’re to add all of the roads up, there’d be about 10,000 kilometres in that area,” he said. “To drive from Vancouver to Ottawa, it would be less than 5,000 kilometres.”

$13K fine for man who killed grizzly deemed ‘scandalous’ by conservationists
The team used DNA to identify individual bears and estimate the density of the bear population.

The next step was to ask how the landscape affects those numbers.

“We found that heavily roaded areas have lower grizzly bear density,” Lamb said.

He noted the B.C. government has closed public access to some of these roads.

“It showed by closing these roads, the public restored grizzly bear density in that area. Maintaining a large roadless area was critical to maintaining a large population of grizzly bears in the area and recovering it.”

Grizzly bears threatened in Alberta

Grizzly bears were listed as threatened in Alberta in 2010 when it was determined there were only about 700 left. A recovery strategy was introduced aimed at reducing conflicts between bears and people.

Grizzly bear researchers such as Gordon Stenhouse from the Foothills Research Institute have also shown how roads affect the survival rates for grizzly bears.

Lamb said when it comes to grizzly bear density, the risks of roads are twofold.

“Roads and the humans that travel them increase both the risk of grizzly bear mortality and the chance the bear won’t use habitat near the road anymore,” he said.

“You could have fewer bears because they’re killed near the road, or you could have fewer because bears avoid the area because there are people on the road. It’s likely a result of both of those mechanisms that result in lower grizzly bear density.” 

Grizzly bear with cubs
The study looked at an 8,000-square-kilometre area in B.C. (Spencer Rettler)
Many of the roads in the area that Lamb studied were initially constructed as logging roads. They’re mainly flat, gravel and two-laned. Even if industry is no longer active in an area, the roads often remain and hunters, campers, and ATV riders use them for recreation.

It is generally recommended that road density not exceed 0.6 kilometres per square kilometre of wilderness area.

Lamb doesn’t think closing some roads would significantly affect the people who currently use them.

“Hundreds of thousands of kilometres of roads will still remain across the province,” he said. “And there are many new, non-motorized recreational opportunities that are created by closing roads.”

Research applicable to Alberta

In Alberta, where the grizzly bear population is much lower than in B.C., previous work studying grizzly bears and roads has already prompted some road closures, said Lamb.

Grizzly bear population in southwest Alberta growing by 4 per cent per year
This research builds on that work, he said.

“In a lot of ways, this study is applicable to Alberta because a lot of the Alberta [bear] population lives in relatively low density due to a lot of dry and rocky habitat in Alberta. And that was essentially what this population was like: a low density recovery population. So the situation we’re documenting is akin to the Alberta situatuion.”

Opinion: B.C. government wants grizzly bears dead

Province could buy out hunting tenures and create world’s largest reserve

By Chris Genovali, Special to the Vancouver Sun April 14, 2014
A grizzly bear feeds along a river in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park near Bella Coola.  Photograph by: Jonathan Hayward , THE CANADIAN PRESS

A grizzly bear feeds along a river in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park near Bella Coola. Photograph by: Jonathan Hayward , THE CANADIAN PRESS

We want these bears dead. This is the message the B.C. government’s “reallocation policy” sends to the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, to British Columbians, and to the world.

This policy also prevents the implementation of an innovative solution to end the commercial trophy hunting of grizzlies and other large carnivores throughout the Great Bear Rainforest.

With the mismanaged, and some would say depraved, B.C. grizzly bear hunt having commenced this month, the controversy surrounding the recreational killing of these iconic animals is spiking once again.

A hard-won Raincoast-led moratorium on grizzly hunting in B.C. was overturned in 2001 by Gordon Campbell’s newly elected Liberal government with no justification other than serving as an obvious sop to the trophy hunting lobby. So, what was supposed to be a three-year provincewide ban was revoked after one spring hunting season. Raincoast, recognizing the then-new premier’s mulish intractability on this issue, decided to take a different approach.

Raincoast raised $1.3 million in 2005 to purchase the commercial trophy hunting rights across 24,700 square kilometres of the Great Bear Rainforest. Raincoast purchased an additional 3,500 square kilometres in 2012, including nearly all the habitat of the spirit bear (despite a restriction on killing spirit bears, trophy hunting of black bears that carry the recessive gene that causes the white coat is allowed). The sellers of these hunting tenures received a fair price, bears were safeguarded, and ecotourism prospered, including within coastal First Nations communities.

The province has countered by instituting a so-called reallocation policy (a.k.a. the Raincoast policy), whereby unused (not killed) grizzly bear “quota” would be stripped from Raincoast’s commercial tenures and allocated to resident hunters (B.C. residents who do not require a licensed hunting guide by law).

Bereft of any legitimate argument to justify the recreational killing of grizzlies, provincial wildlife managers stand naked in front of an increasingly disgusted and disapproving public, their blatant cronyism on behalf of the trophy hunting lobby exposed for all to see.

The ecological argument is clear: killing bears for “management” purposes is unnecessary and scientifically unsound. Although attempts are made to dress the province’s motivations in the trappings of proverbial “sound science,” they are clearly driven by an anachronistic ideology that is disconcertingly fixated on killing as a legitimate and necessary tool of wildlife management.

Dr. Paul Paquet, senior scientist at Raincoast and co-author of a recently published peer-reviewed paper on B.C. bear management, states: “We analyzed only some of the uncertainty associated with grizzly management and found it was likely contributing to widespread overkills. I’m not sure how the government defines sound science, but an approach that carelessly leads to widespread overkills is less than scientifically credible.”

The ethical argument is clear: gratuitous killing for recreation and amusement is unacceptable and immoral. Polling shows that nine of 10 British Columbians agree, from rural residents (including many hunters) to city dwellers. In their 2009 publication, The Ethics of Hunting, Drs. Michael Nelson and Kelly Millenbah state if wildlife managers began “to take philosophy and ethics more seriously, both as a realm of expertise that can be acquired and as a critical dimension of wildlife conservation, many elements of wildlife conservation and management would look different.”

The economic argument is clear. Recent research by Stanford University identifies that bear-viewing supports 10 times more employment, tourist spending, and government revenue than trophy hunting within the Great Bear Rainforest. Notably, the Stanford study suggests the revenue generated by fees and licences affiliated with the trophy killing of grizzlies fails to cover the cost of the province’s management of the hunt. As a result, B.C. taxpayers, most of whom oppose the hunt according to poll after poll, are in essence forced to subsidize the trophy killing of grizzlies.

What remains unknown is why the B.C. government so desperately wants these bears dead.

Raincoast stands ready to raise the funds to acquire the remaining commercial hunting tenures in the Great Bear Rainforest, a mutually beneficial solution that guide outfitters have indicated they will not oppose. Although the province, at its political peril, has failed to recognize it, Coastal First Nations have banned trophy hunting under their laws throughout their unceded territories, and the public is overwhelmingly supportive.

Buying out the remaining hunting tenures in the Great Bear Rainforest, coupled with the administrative closure of resident hunting in the region, would create the largest grizzly bear reserve in the world and a model for sustainable economic activity.

Chris Genovali is executive director of Raincoast Conservation Foundation.