B.C. government gets failing grades in grizzly bear management
A century ago, 35,000 grizzly bears lived in British Columbia and also flourished from Alaska to Mexico, and east to Ontario. Today, only about 15,000 grizzly bears inhabit B.C., having disappeared from the Lower Mainland, the Okanagan and around Fort St. John.
Despite being large and ferocious, grizzlies are highly sensitive to human impacts such as loss and fragmentation of their forest and mountain habitats by clearcuts, roads, oil and gas pipelines and other industrial infrastructure. Female bears reproduce later in life and often produce only a small number of cubs that survive into adulthood. Grizzlies travel long distances to find food, putting them at risk of coming into contact with hunters, roads, towns and other human encroachments into their habitat.
Bear experts have long known that if we want to keep grizzlies on the landscape, we must protect their habitat and ensure that the animals are not needlessly killed by humans. These two strategies are at the core of British Columbia’s official policy, the Grizzly Bear Strategy, which has guided management practices in the province since 1995. The ambitious strategy outlines steps to sustain the province’s bears with healthy populations and recover those with declining populations. It requires the government to protect bear habitat in a network of “grizzly bear management areas” where resource development is prevented and/or strictly managed, hunting is prohibited and risk-related recreational activities — such as off-highway vehicle use — are controlled. The plan also recognizes that human-caused mortality must be reduced and kept below sustainable thresholds by conservatively managing the grizzly bear sport hunt.
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