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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Grizzly bears will never repopulate Prairies, report says

"A federal report that suggests there's no chance grizzly bears that once roamed the tall grass of the Prairies can be recovered in the region sends a sobering warning, says a group that is trying to protect the bruins."

The Environment Canada report compiled under the Species at Risk Act says the landscape of the southern Prairies has irreversibly changed since the bears' range stretched as far east as Manitoba hundreds of years ago."

"Where bears once lived amongst wild bison and flowing grasslands, people and roads are now packed tightly around agricultural fields, leaving little land where modern grizzlies could survive."

“It highlights a rather tragic reality that once a species is lost, more often than not it's lost forever,” Carl Morrison of the group Action Grizzly Bear said Monday.

"Grizzlies are considered extirpated, or extinct within a certain region, in a Prairie zone that stretches from just east of Winnipeg, up over top of Saskatoon and Edmonton and just west of Calgary."

"Anecdotal information from early European settlers suggest that bears were once fairly plentiful, but “grizzly bears were rarely seen on the Canadian Prairies after 1900,” according to the report, which was released late last month."

“Recovery of this species is considered not technically or biologically feasible at this time,” it concludes.

"Modern-day grizzlies mainly live in an area from the Rocky Mountain foothills stretching north."

"Without stronger protection, their range could become even smaller, said Mr. Morrison. Some sources suggest as few as 500 bears could be left in Alberta."

“The report concludes that we can't recover the Prairie population of grizzly bears, so in order to maintain healthy and viable populations of grizzly bears in Canada we need to focus on areas where they still exist,” he said.

“If we don't want this trend to continue ... then the government of Alberta needs to take some action to make sure that it stops here.”

To read the remainder of this article please go to:

Source of image:The University of Alberta

The fact that scientific research into the grizzly bear has shown that these animals eat almost anything (see:, and yet they are still threatened with extinction, indicates that human beings are responsible for the decline in populations of these bears. According to research I have done on the internet, scientists in Alberta do not even know how many grizzly bears there are in Alberta. However, DNA surveys have been conducted in Alberta since 2004 and are ongoing.

"Currently, grizzlies occupy about 200 000 km² of western Alberta (see map above). In recent years, there have been several reports from areas that have been without grizzly populations for most of this century. Some of these sightings (from near Priddis, Winagami Lake, Fort Chipewyan and other areas) followed translocations and movements of nuisance grizzlies and may not necessarily lead to permanent occupation. However, regional populations near Chinchaga River in the northwest, Rocky Mountain House, and the area north of Waterton Lakes National Park have increased since the 1960s."

"Based on several capture and marking studies and information on regional habitats, provincial biologists in 1987 estimated that there were 519-575 grizzlies on lands not including the nation parks. This figure provided the baseline for determinations of regional grizzly populations year by year, using data on mortality, translocation, immigration and production."

"Following a revision to this model in 2003 and subsequent work, provincial population was estimated at between 500 and 1000 grizzlies. Additional information is needed to establish more concrete numbers. DNA-based census work is underway to give the model verified information. The populations are affected by habitat change, human factors (e.g., development, which leads to reduced habitat effectiveness), and high rates of nuisance bear removals."

"Alberta's universities have produced but one independently peer-reviewed scientific study of the grizzly population: the 2002 report found growth roughly 4% annually; this, when the province still offered limited hunting, and hunters still killed an average of just over a dozen grizzlies every year."

"Three hundred bears may well be sustainable," says Quentin Bochar, president of the Alberta Fish and Game Association. "We don't know. We're comparing [modern] statistics with anecdotal examples from more than a hundred years ago."

"What we do know is that the Alberta landscape is not the best grizzly habitat: not as stocked with flora and fish as B.C. and Alaska, each grizzly here carves out a larger area of territory to sustain itself, Mr. Whiteside says; Alberta bears usually weigh less and have fewer, smaller cubs. Though they manage in river valleys, they seem not to thrive elsewhere on Alberta's prairie. Despite legends of the prairie grizzlies, Charles Kay, a Utah State University ecologist and wildlife historian who has researched for Canada's Parks Department, says there is no evidence that the Alberta bears ever lived in large numbers away from the Rockies."

"Alberta's grizzlies are on the edge," says Jim Pissot, executive director of Defenders of Wildlife Canada, comparing the bear's plight to that of the American Heath Hen, hunted to extinction in the 19th century despite too-late recovery efforts. "Up till the hunt was suspended, this province has managed bears as though we had a thousand or more ... we've hunted as though we had a thousand [and] we've built roads into habitat as if we had a thousand." He explains that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has put at one thousand the critical population threshold below which a species shall be considered in danger. This is a commonly mounted case."

"But moves to protect Alberta's grizzlies, designating them as "at risk" or even endangered, as some conservationists would like, affects far more than a few hunters, triggering strict regulations on any industrial activity disturbing habitat, potentially affecting the billions invested annually in the province's vital oil, gas, coal and forestry sector. Those pressing for better grizzly protection are demanding roads and logging curtailed. Area considered primary or secondary grizzly habitat covers 6.2 million hectares, Mr. Whiteside says: one-tenth the province's land mass."

"This, most everyone agrees, is the real root of the province's wariness to rush to declare the grizzlies threatened without firm evidence of it. Both sides of the grizzly divide are gearing up for a fresh fray once the province releases the Foothills report results later this year. Whatever the number, some are almost certain to insist it is too low and demand dramatic action. Yet, without any historic benchmarks for comparison, and no valid idea, even, of how many bears genuinely belong here, the province's pending, state-of-the-art grizzly study may end up doing little to diminish Alberta's long-running state of discord over the grizzlies' fate."


"A new study suggests that forestry practices can actually make life better for grizzly bears, but the roads that lead into the woods pose significant danger to the sensitive species."

"University of Alberta researcher Scott Nielsen has been studying grizzly populations in the Foothills region for eight years. His work was commissioned by the Hinton-based Foothills Research Institute."

"In a recently published report, Nielsen argues that although forestry is “win-win” for grizzlies and forest companies, roads are killing them off."

"Nielsen said that logging activity can create good conditions for grizzlies. Cut patterns create many different “edges” where more flora grows. Also, the young tree stands that sprout from regenerated forests are the bears’ favourite food.

However Nielsen’s research also suggests that because they increase human interaction with bears, the roads that forestry companies require to access the trees and deliver their product are killing the ecological bellwether species."

"Grizzly populations are sensitive because they don’t reproduce as quickly as other species, he explained from Edmonton last week. “It’s a numbers game and they don’t have the resiliency to bounce back as fast.”"

"Grizzly bears are extremely sensitive to their surrounding environment, which means scientists consider them an indicator of ecological health. If a habitat is good enough for grizzlies, it’s likely healthy enough to sustain a whole host of creatures that fall beneath them on the food chain."

"“[Grizzlies] have low reproductive rates, they have low [population] densities to begin with and they’re highly sensitive to low survival rates. They’re like a canary in a coal mine [and respond] to changes in processes and landscape structure, from us primarily.”

Because they are carnivores, grizzlies also help maintain population balances of other animals, like ungulates.

Furthermore, grizzlies dig a lot, Nielsen said. Which helps maintain meadow diversity.

“It’s literally like rototilling the earth. It actually enhances biodiversity, which enhances nutrient cycling.”

Despite the importance of the species, Nielsen noted that humans continue to benefit greatly from area oil, gas and lumber. Also, people use the roads for recreation as well.

“It’s really a challenge of how we balance resource use and conservation of some of these key species.”


How badly do we humans want grizzly bears in Alberta? That is a question all of us must ask ourselves. If you want to drive to the mountains and see the bears with your family then I suggest you write your MLA using this letter (source:

Send this Letter to your MLA

Please email a copy of this letter to your MLA.

To help us track campaign progress please BCC:

According to the information you provided, we have identified your MLA as




If N/A appears it means our records indicate you are a non-Alberta resident or we do not have the correct information (i.e. postal code) to determine your MLA. If you believe any of the above informtion is incorrect please contact .

**Letter Below**


Re: Budget for grizzly bear recovery in Alberta

Grizzly bear recovery will require strong political leadership to be successful. As my MLA I look to you to demonstrate this leadership. I ask that you fully commit to supporting grizzly bear recovery. I also ask that you register my concerns regarding the lack of funding for grizzly bear recovery in Alberta.

Wild species are a keystone to healthy ecological processes providing environmental stability, with subsequent benefit to the economic stability of our province and the social and economic well-being of Albertans. This keystone role is reflected in the high value that the large majority of citizens place on conservation of species at risk” - Alberta’s Strategy for the Management of Species at Risk (2009-2014)

Perhaps for no other species than Alberta’s Threatened grizzly bear, does this statement hold more truth. However, despite the ecological, economic and social wealth this species provides to Alberta, there is no dedicated funding for grizzly bear recovery in the provincial budget.

In contrast, the province has dedicated $10 million to promote Alberta’s new slogan: “Alberta. Freedom to Create. Spirit to Achieve.” An additional $71 million has been dedicated towards tourism and marketing initiatives to position Alberta as a tourism destination.

Consider this, what other globally recognized icon represents Alberta’s “freedom” and “spirit” better than the grizzly bear? Failure to invest in Alberta’s natural heritage will undermine any money spent to promote it.

Please heed my concerns for the fate of Alberta’s grizzly bear. You have my full support in your efforts to ensure grizzly bear recovery receives the political commitment and necessary funding to be successful.

I look forward to your response expressing your support and explaining your intentions.


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Thoughts worth thinking about

"Our subconscious minds have no sense of humor, play no jokes and cannot tell the difference between reality and an imagined thought or image. What we continually think about eventually will manifest in our lives."-Sidney Madwed

Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every woman and man present their views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.- Albert Einstein Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia

A person's true wealth is the good he or she does in the world. - Mohammed

Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. -Albert Einstein

The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others. - Ghandi

The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves. - Helen Keller

Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person. - Dr. David M. Burns

Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures. -His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it. -

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That's the essence of inhumanity. -George Bernard Shaw

Ego's trick is to make us lose sight of our interdependence. That kind of ego-thought gives us a perfect justification to look out only for ourselves. But that is far from the truth. In reality we all depend on each other and we have to help each other. The husband has to help his wife, the wife has to help the husband, the mother has to help her children, and the children are supposed to help the parents too, whether they want to or not.-Gehlek Rinpoche Source: "The Best Buddhist Writing 2005 pg. 165

The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events---that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies---and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.