Brown Bear Research
Why are brown bears at risk in British Columbia?
In Canada, the brown (grizzly) bear is classified as a species of ‘Special Concern’ by the federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and provincially ‘Vulnerable’ within British Columbia by the B.C. Conservation Data Centre. Globally, they are also included on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
North American brown bears have suffered from dramatic range decline and have been extirpated from much of their former range with the United States. Within Canada, British Columbia remains a stronghold for brown bears, containing viable populations particularly in the north and west of the province. The Great Bear Rainforest covers much of coastal B.C. and is prime grizzly bear habitat with high densities of grizzly bears and low-levels of human-development. However, land- and ocean-based practices for natural resource extraction, such as clear-cut logging, can have dramatic impacts on brown bear persistence if not regulated appropriately. Many questions remain on how brown bear populations in B.C. are affected by human-induced environmental change and how it will effect local and large-scale population persistence into the future. The hunting of brown bears, primarily for sport in Canada, also has the potential to adversely affect populations by reducing numbers and through social disruption (caused by taking predominantly large male bears). Hunting quotas are dependant on current government population estimates, however the current methods used to assess populations have come under scrutiny from independent scientists. Questions remain on the accuracy of current estimates and therefore the sustainability of brown bear trophy hunting in B.C.
Why is it important to study coastal brown bears?
In our opinion, to ensure the continued persistence of brown bears in Canada, we must protect areas which act as strongholds. We must conduct research into why these areas are strongholds for bears and identify any current practices/phenomenon which may lead to their decline. We must also seek to advance our knowledge on bear behaviour, so to ensure management and conservation practices are appropriate to their ecology. By identifying these factors we are then better equipped to conserve smaller, threatened populations and contribute more generally to the conservation of the species.