The Future of BC's Grizzly Bears

Did You Know: Grizzly bears are considered a species of “Special Concern” by COSEWIC because their behaviors often bring them into contact with humans and they are sensitive to changes in habitat.

With development increasing in remote areas of British Columbia, many environmentalists have raised concerns about the future of BC’s grizzly bear populations. They have suggested that discontinuing the 2% harvest by hunters has addressed the main threat to grizzly bear populations.

Hunters and guide outfitters agree with anti-hunters about the potential threats to grizzly bear populations, but we do not believe that the small, controlled hunt was a threat. The focus needs to be on maintaining grizzly bear habitat and reducing human-wildlife conflict. Many recent scientific reports (and the Auditor General’s report) have indicated that habitat is the most critical factor in maintaining grizzly bear populations.

Did You Know: In 2013-14, the Conservation Officer Service received 425 calls regarding human-grizzly conflicts.

Grizzly bears are sensitive to development for several reasons. Since they are habitat generalists that enjoy a wide variety of foods – but need high-energy foods to deposit the fat needed for hibernation – their foraging behavior often brings them into contact with humans.

Human-dominated areas where garbage, fruit trees, and other foods are available will have higher rates of grizzly bear mortality as many may be destroyed as a result of human-wildlife conflict. In 2013-14, the Conservation Officer Service received 425 calls regarding human-grizzly conflicts. Each year approximately 10-30 bears are killed by Conservation Officers because of conflicts. A similar number are taken and reported by landowners in self defense or protection of livestock; many more are likely killed and not reported.

In addition, habitat fragmentation caused by human and industrial development can result in small, isolated populations, which has a negative effect on connectivity and, hence, population viability.

The first Independent Scientific Panel stated the situation clearly in the 2003 report, “Hunting conducted under properly managed game management principles rarely poses a threat to bear populations; chronic habitat changes and increased human access, however, can have serious deleterious effects.”

Did You Know: Approximately 10-30 grizzly bears are destroyed by Conservation Officers per year due to human-bear conflict.

Discontinuing the grizzly bear hunt is not a long-term solution for grizzly bears. In fact, since the hunt ended, the special grizzly bear account in the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation that funded many grizzly bear research and inventory programs has also ended. Other species and issues now get increased priority.

We are seeing more and more industrial development in northern BC. Expanding human settlement will certainly accompany this development. It is important that we find ways to avoid and mitigate impacts to all wildlife populations, including grizzly bears, as these changes go forward.