Canadian Park Needs Grizzly Conservation Plan
Bear Deaths Threaten Grizzly Population; Challenge Banff Park Managers(10/12/2004) - Canmore, Alberta CANADA – Conservationists today repeated their calls to Parks Canada to develop and implement a conservation plan for the grizzly bears of Banff National Park. “Grizzly bears are more at risk in parts of our national parks than they are in the general landscape," charged Jim Pissot, executive director of Defenders of Wildlife Canada. “In spite of positive management steps, Banff's bears continue to die at an alarming rate."
Last month, park staff found the bodies of two mature female bears in the park backcountry. Bear 46 was found early in September, apparently killed by another grizzly. Bear 30 was killed by wolves later in the month. In June, bear 36, known as Blondie, was killed by a vehicle on the Trans-Canada Highway. These deaths have cut the number of breeding female grizzlies in the Lake Louise area in half. Six cubs were left prematurely on their own as a result of these deaths.
“Ten grizzlies have died from human causes in the past four years, exceeding the thresholds in Banff's management plan," said Dr. Tracey Henderson, program director of the Grizzly Bear Alliance. "Parks Canada must take necessary steps to reduce human-caused mortality so that natural events do not threaten the grizzly population. "
Parks Canada has identified critical grizzly habitat and encouraged reduced human activity in areas of likely conflict. Fencing and other mitigation measures on the Trans-Canada Highway have spared bears and other wildlife. But bears continue to die on railroad tracks and unprotected roadways and continue to be attracted to human communities.
Parks Canada has adopted general guidelines aimed at reducing conflicts and protecting bears, but there is no specific grizzly conservation plan. “Parks Canada needs to adopt a legitimate conservation plan for grizzly bears," said Pissot. “The plan needs measurable objectives, timelines, and contingency measures to guide Banff's response to human-caused and other mortalities."
Conservation groups and grizzly bear researchers have criticized management decisions that put the park’s grizzlies at greater risk. The new convention centre at Lake Louise will bring business conferences to the park’s most sensitive grizzly habitat at times when the bears are most likely to come into conflict with people. Ski hills seeking expanded summer use encroach on areas intended to provide food for the park's grizzlies. Failure to ensure that motorists comply with posted speed limits further threatens bears and other wildlife.
Defenders of Wildlife Canada and the Grizzly Bear Alliance called for the following measures to reduce bear mortality and conserve the park’s grizzly bear population:
- Parks Canada must adopt and implement a comprehensive grizzly bear management plan. The plan must provide specific objectives and timelines and contingency measures in response to changing circumstances.
- Vehicle speed must
be reduced in more sensitive areas. Unfenced portions of the Trans-Canada
Highway should have posted daylight speeds of no more
than 70 km/hr, perhaps reduced after dark. Driver education, increased
enforcement and appropriate fines need to be part of this solution. Photo radar
and other tools should be considered
- The park’s wildlife
must not become isolated. According to the environmental evaluation of the next
section to be twinned and improved on the Trans-Canada Highway, ALL focal
species considered in the evaluation will suffer “limited," “impaired," or
“substantially impaired" connectivity even with the planned crossing
mitigations. Improved wildlife crossings must be provided along all of the
- Human activity must
be managed and reduced as needed in critical areas when grizzlies are active.
Ski hills and other recreation opportunities must not put visitors in harms way
or displace wildlife during feeding and other important times of the
- New steps need to
be taken to reduce wildlife mortality on railroad tracks. The slow response to a
recent grain spill east of Canmore suggests the railroad is not taking these
issues seriously. Too many grizzly bears, black bears and other wildlife are
dying between the tracks.
- Parks Canada must coordinate more closely with provincial governments in Alberta and British Columbia . Canmore and Panther Corners (east of the north end of Banff National Park) are known conflict areas where bears are either removed or killed. When “park bears" cross park boundaries, they deserve special protection.
"Banff's bears do not multiply like rabbits," noted Dr. Henderson. “Females mate later in life, and cubs stay with their mothers longer. They have a very low reproductive rate, so each female and each cub is very important to the population." Pissot added, “Efforts to protect communities like Lake Louise from fire will result in prime foraging areas close to our communities. This will create a potentially volatile situation with this year’s cohort of young independent bears." Both organizations called for stricter measures to ensure Banff National Parks wildlife will be enjoyed and appreciated by future generations.
Defenders of Wildlife is one of the nation's most progressive advocates for wildlife and habitat, and was named as one of America's Top 100 Charities by Worth magazine. With more than 480,000 members and supporters, Defenders is an effective voice for wildlife and habitat. To learn more about Defenders of Wildlife, please visit www.defenders.org. To contact Defenders of Wildlife Canada, please visit www.defenderscanada.org.
Contact(s):Dr. Tracey Henderson, (403) 678-8532
Jim Pissot, (403) 678-0016 or (403) 609-9958