The impact changes in Bragg Creek and the Elbow Valley are having on grizzly bears
An expanding wave of rural residents
With increasing appetite, Calgarians, Albertans and others are looking to build homes and reside in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta. Located within reasonable commuting distance to Calgary, foothills communities such as Bragg Creek, Water Valley, Canmore, Millarville, are experiencing a rapid increase in the density of acreage dwellers or condominiums. This expanding wave of “rural residential” is consuming habitat previously used by grizzly bears, and placing humans and bears in much greater proximity. As acreage complexes emerge, they serve as focal points that in turn increase levels of mountain biking, fishing, hiking, trail riding and hunting. Not surprisingly, conflict interactions between grizzly bears and humans increase in direct proportion to intensity of recreational activity (Mattson et al. 1996). Some of these unfortunate encounters will lead to the destruction of individual bears, further eroding the ability of the regional grizzly population to persist.
Citation for Chapter 13:
B. Stelfox, S. Herrero, and D. Ryerson. 2005. Implications of historical, current, and likely future trajectories of human landuses and population growth to grizzly bears in the Alberta portion of the Central Rockies Ecosystem. See pages 211-222 in particular, in S. Herrero, editor. Biology, demography, ecology and management of grizzly bears in and around Banff National Park and Kananaskis Country: The final report of the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project. Faculty of Environmental Design, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Landmark Grizzly Bear Study in Banff and Kananaskis Complete
Maintaining a sustainable human-caused death rate will be critical and challenging but is necessary for bear survival in the Bow Valley, report concludes.
One of the most comprehensive and long-lasting research projects on grizzly bears is now complete, with the release of the final report of the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project (ESGBP) today.
Goals and recommendations contained in the ESGBP final report focus on managing and monitoring human-caused mortality of adult female grizzly bears. The report says that a particularly challenging aspect of this will be managing habitat used by grizzly bears in a manner that allows bears to live without dangerous risk of mortality in and around some of the fastest-growing communities in Canada.
“Achieving sustainable human-caused mortality will involve designing and managing peoples’ activities and facilities with grizzly bears in mind,” said project chairperson Dr. Stephen Herrero (left), of the U of C’s Faculty of Environmental Design.
The report shows where and suggests how to do this in a series of recommendations, including:
- Maintaining and restoring grizzly bear habitat throughout the region.
- Minimizing conflicts between bears and people by enhancing public education and wildlife law enforcement.
- Restricting public use of some areas during times of high bear activity.
The 248-page report summarizes a team of University of Calgary-based researchers’ 11-year study of grizzly bears in and around Banff National Park and Kananaskis Country and stresses that achieving a sustainable, scientifically documented, human-caused grizzly bear mortality rate is key to the grizzly’s future.
“Knowing if future human-caused mortality is sustainable will require long-term commitment to research designed to monitor survival and reproduction. Management must be directed at taking action based on monitoring results,” project chairperson Herrero said.
“Without substantial commitment to this type of monitoring research the ever-increasing cumulative effects of human activities on grizzly bear mortality will not be clearly known but could lead to range contraction and population decline.”
Part of the ESGBP demographic research was published in the January issue of the Journal of Wildlife Management. It showed that in order to maintain a non-declining population, survival of adult female bears from year to year needed to be at least 91 per cent or greater. This was achieved in the Bow River Watershed of Banff National Park and Kananaskis Country from 1994 to 2002 but the survival rate fell to 88 per cent in 2003 and 71 per cent in 2004.
“If survival data for the last two years indicate a trend then there is cause for concern,” Herrero said.
Previous ESGBP research showed that this population had the lowest reproductive output of any population studied in North America. The study found that 75 per cent of female grizzly deaths and 86 per cent of male deaths were attributed to human causes, including removal or relocation of problem bears, vehicle collisions, legal hunting and legal kills by treaty Indians, illegal kills and research mortalities.
The final report identifies nine goals and related management recommendations that, if achieved, will support a future for grizzly bears. The recommendations are prioritized into steps that should be taken within two or five years and assume that the three major jurisdictions involved in grizzly bear management in the study area: the federal government, which manages Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks and the Alberta and British Columbia governments, want to support a non-declining grizzly bear population.
The report is published and is available to government agencies and the public for reference, review and guidance for grizzly bear management.
More than 225 individuals and 55 supporting organizations contributed to the East Slopes Grizzly Bear Project.
Principal participants included the U of C, Parks Canada, the Government of Alberta (Alberta Energy and Utilities Board, Sustainable Resource Development, Community Development and Kananakis Country), the Government of British Columbia (Fish and Wildlife); conservation, community and recreation groups; the oil and gas industry; the forest products industry; the land development industry and the cattle industry.
The ESGBP final report is available on the project’s website, www.canadianrockies.net/Grizzly