Grizzly bears were once the most widespread bear species
in the world. They were found in Europe, Asia, North
Africa and throughout the western half of North America
from the Arctic to central Mexico. Today's Grizzly Bears
are confined to sparsely inhabited regions of central
Europe, Russia and North America.
In North America, Grizzly Bears are now found mainly
in British Columbia, the Yukon, Northwest Territories,
Alberta, Alaska and in a few areas within the lower
48 states of the United States. A 1990 assessment of
Grizzly Bears in Canada suggests that Canada is home
to one half of North America's Grizzly Bears. British
Columbia is estimated to have between 10,000 and 13,000
Grizzly Bears, or nearly half of the remaining Canadian
A background report Conservation of Grizzly Bears in
British Columbia has been published by the Ministry
of Environment, Lands and Parks. The report demonstrates
that British Columbia is one of the last remaining places
on the planet where Grizzly Bears can still be found
in relative abundance. However, Grizzly Bears are being
adversely affected by our rapidly rising population,
urban development, land use and other human activities.
The report suggests that unless steps are taken now
to conserve Grizzly Bear populations in British Columbia,
this animal could disappear from our landscape forever.
The government of British Columbia has developed this
Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy. The mandate of the
strategy is to ensure the continued existence of Grizzly Bears and their habitats for future generations. The
Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy has four goals:
- To maintain in perpetuity the diversity and abundance
of Grizzly Bears and the ecosystems on which they
depend throughout British Columbia.
- To improve the management of Grizzly Bears and their
interactions with humans.
- To increase public knowledge and involvement in
Grizzly Bear management.
- To increase international cooperation in management
and research of Grizzly Bears.
The main points of the strategy are:
Grizzly Bear Management Areas: Government will
identify a number of key Grizzly Bear habitats for possible
designation as special Grizzly Bear Management Areas.
This designation will prohibit grizzly hunting, but
will not necessarily prohibit resource extraction; however,
the designation will ensure that the areas are managed
to secure the long-term survival of Grizzly Bear populations.
Grizzly Bear Management Areas will be identified through
existing land-use planning processes such as Land and
Resource Management Plans (LRMPs) and the Protected
Areas Strategy (PAS).
Grizzly Bear Scientific Advisory Committee: An independent Grizzly Bear Scientific Advisory Committee
will be established to provide advice to government
on the conservation needs of Grizzly Bears. The Committee
will be made up of respected Grizzly Bear experts, and
will seek input from a public interest committee made
up of representatives from key stakeholder groups around
Increased Research: Government will increase
its research on Grizzly Bear ecosystems, including a
province-wide inventory and assessment of Grizzly Bears
and Grizzly Bear habitats.
Changes to Hunting Regulations: By fall 1996,
all areas of the province still open to Grizzly Bear
hunting have been placed on Limited Entry Harvest, the
province's lottery system for the allocation of limited
hunting opportunities. Quotas and administrative guidelines
are being put in place in areas where Grizzly Bear hunting
is allowed. In addition, all bear hunting licenses will
include a surcharge for the Habitat Conservation Fund
that will help pay for Grizzly Bear population and habitat
research throughout the province.
Increased Enforcement: Government will step
up enforcement to deal with poaching, illegal trade
in bear parts and other violations of the British Columbia
Increased Penalties: Penalties for poaching
Grizzly Bears will be increased substantially: First
offence fines will be raised from a minimum of $200
and a maximum of $10,000 to a minimum of $1,000 and
a maximum of $25,000. Fines for second and subsequent
offences will be raised from a minimum of $1,000 and
a maximum of $25,000 to a minimum of $6,000 and a maximum
Education: A comprehensive environmental education
program for the intermediate and senior secondary school
levels will be developed by government. In addition,
an information program targeting both specific groups
and the general public will be developed to increase
public awareness about Grizzly Bears, bear safety and
ways to avoid bear/people conflicts.
Preventing "Problem" Bears: Government
is developing policies to minimize conflicts between
people and Grizzly Bears. New policies are being developed
to regulate garbage and waste disposal, and to deal
with other food sources that attract Grizzly Bears,
such as orchards, compost heaps and home waste. Government
will provide funding and support to communities to improve
waste management facilities, including fencing dumps
and removing or rebuilding poorly constructed waste
Partnerships with the Private Sector: The National
Basketball Association's Vancouver Grizzlies, as part
of their commitment to the community, have become a
major partner in the Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy,
to help promote the conservtion needs of Grizzly Bears,
The provincial government will join forces with the
Grizzlies to form partnerships with other organizations
and the private sector to help raise funds for more
education and research.
The Grizzly Bear is perhaps the greatest symbol of
wilderness. Its survival will be the greatest testimony
to our environmental commitment. The British Columbia
Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy will leave a
permanent legacy for our children: A Future for the
The British Columbia Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy
No other creature better represents the wilderness
in British Columbia than the Grizzly Bear; nothing is
a better measure of our success in maintaining biodiversity
than the survival of this species.
The mandate of this Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy
is to ensure the continued existence of Grizzly Bears
and their habitats for future generations.
Goals and Objectives
The goals and objectives of this strategy address three
- loss and alienation of Grizzly Bear habitat
- interactions with humans, and
- international considerations.
Goal 1: To maintain in perpetuity the diversity and abundance
of Grizzly Bears and the ecosystems on which they depend
throughout British Columbia
- Increase the scientific knowledge base of Grizzly Bears and their habitat needs
- Maintain the genetic diversity of Grizzly Bears
in British Columbia
Goal 2: To improve the management of Grizzly Bears and their
interactions with humans
- Modify incompatible human activities
- Improve the management and regulation of hunting
Goal 3: To increase public knowledge and involvement
- Increase public knowledge of Grizzly Bears and their
- Increase public involvement in appropriate Grizzly Bear management
Goal 4: To increase international cooperation in management
- Take a leading role in management and research of
Conservation of Grizzly Bear Habitat
Grizzly bear populations require vast amounts of land
in which to live. Over its lifetime, a single Grizzly Bear will require a home range between 50 and 100 square
kilometres, and - in some cases - up to thousands of
The greatest single cause of declining Grizzly Bear
populations is loss of habitat. Our rapidly growing
population's increasing demands upon the land and its
resources, and human intolerance of grizzlies, are the
greatest cause of habitat loss or alienation.
Habitat loss occurs because of permanent changes, such
as the development of a human settlement, flooding for
a reservoir, or other irreversible changes to the land.
Habitat alienation occurs when Grizzly Bear habitat
is used by people in ways that prevent grizzlies from
using it, such as during logging or mining operations,
use of rural airstrips or clearing areas for agricultural
use. The issue of land use in British Columbia is a
critical component in a strategy to protect Grizzly Bears.
Grizzly Bear Management Areas
One of the primary means of reducing the loss of key
grizzly habitat is to preserve a network of Grizzly Bear ecosystems as management areas. By establishing
specific Grizzly Bear management areas, we can protect
Grizzly Bear populations by ensuring that activities
that are not compatible with Grizzly Bears are carefully
controlled or not allowed.
The provincial government will identify key habitats
throughout the province for consideration for management
Management areas will:
- contain high quality Grizzly Bear habitat,
- be closed to hunting of Grizzly Bears,
- control other recreational activities that might
be detrimental to Grizzly Bear habitats (such as off-road
vehicle use, biking, camping, etc.),
- be managed to secure the long-term survival of Grizzly Bear populations, and
- wherever possible, be connected by linking corridors
that contain the habitat requirements for Grizzly Bears to travel between management areas.
Management areas to be considered will be identified
and prioritized according to criteria such as:
- habitat suitability,
- proximity to existing and proposed protected areas,
- level of threat to Grizzly Bear populations.
The Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy will not impose
new land use processes or new demands on the land base
over and above those already sanctioned by government.
Instead, it will utilize the opportunities provided
by existing land use initiatives, such as Land and Resource
Management Plans (LRMPs), the Protected Areas Strategy
(PAS) and the Commission on Resources and Environment
(CORE). If there is a need for withdrawals from the
land base to protect Grizzly Bears, those decisions
will be made through these existing processes and will
be subject to the local consensus or joint sign-off
that these initiatives require. The only unilateral
decision the Wildlife Branch might make for Grizzly Bear conservation would be to close areas to hunting,
and even this measure would be subject to consultation.
Any designation of Grizzly Bear management areas could
only proceed as follows:
- In those areas where CORE, PAS or LRMP processes
are under way or proposed, staff of the Wildlife Branch
would provide input and make recommendations for the
establishment of Grizzly Bear management areas. The
decision as to whether such an area is recommended
for designation would be the decision of the LRMP
or CORE table itself, not the Wildlife Branch.
- In areas where there are no CORE, PAS or LRMP processes,
the Wildlife Branch could suggest no-hunting areas
following consultation with local interest groups.
These would simply be no-hunting areas under the British
Columbia Wildlife Act and would not restrict extractive
or industrial activities. No-hunting areas would not
be protected areas.
The creation of Grizzly Bear management areas will
require consultation with the public. Representatives
of First Nations and stakeholder groups such as the
BC Wildlife Federation, the Guide Outfitters Association
of BC, Federation of BC Naturalists, Canadian Parks
& Wilderness Society and the Outdoor Recreation
Council of BC will be included in the consultation process
before new management areas are established.
Although creating Grizzly Bear management areas will
be a key component to the Grizzly Bear Conservation
Strategy, other management processes will be required
in order to fully protect Grizzly Bears. For example,
a separate Forest Practices Code field guide for Grizzly Bears will ensure that, as much as possible, logging
on the majority of the land base outside of protected
areas does not adversely affect key Grizzly Bear habitat.
In addition, Grizzly Bear habitat could be protected
through the designation of special management resource
zones identified through provincial land-use planning.
Grizzly Bear Scientific Advisory
An independent Grizzly Bear Scientific Advisory Committee
will be established to advise government on the conservation
needs of Grizzly Bears. The Committee will be made up
of respected provincial, national and international
Grizzly Bear experts, as well as First Nations representatives.
The Committee will advise government on such issues
- research priorities,
- inventory priorities,
- public safety issues related to bears,
- hunting regulations,
- bear population status and trends,
- new biological and ecological information, and
- international considerations.
The Scientific Advisory Committee will seek input from
a public interest committee made up of representatives
from key stakeholder groups.
The Grizzly Bear Scientific Advisory Committee will
meet regularly and report to the Minister of Environment,
Lands and Parks.
Research and Inventory
We still have many questions about Grizzly Bears in
British Columbia that need answers in order to determine
how best to manage this species. The government will
be increasing and intensifying its research efforts
around the Grizzly Bear in order to fill important gaps
in our knowledge.
- Revise estimates of Grizzly Bear populations in
British Columbia, based on a province-wide inventory
and assessment of Grizzly Bears, including available
habitats and Grizzly Bear genetics and behaviour.
- Host a provincial workshop to examine methods of
determining population estimates of Grizzly Bears.
- Identify potential Grizzly Bear ecosystems within
each ecoprovince at small and medium map scales.
- Determine the extent of population variability,
especially in small, potentially isolated populations.
- Conduct genetic analyses to determine gene flow
and isolation of Grizzly Bear populations across British
- Conduct studies to determine the habitat and dietary
overlap of grizzly and black bears.
- Conduct more research into safety aspects of human/bear
Grizzly Bears and People
Garbage and Other Food Sources
The majority of all bear attacks on humans in North America have been by bears that had
fed on garbage or on other food sources such as orchards and compost heaps.
Garbage-conditioned bears are even more dangerous and unpredictable than wild bears. They
learn to associate humans with food and thus lose their fear of humans.
Garbage-conditioned bears pose a threat to human safety and property, and this
situation often results in the destruction of bears. From 1989 to 1993, an average of 20
Grizzly Bears had to be destroyed yearly in British Columbia because of the potential for
conflict with humans. During the same time period, an average of 384 black bears had to be
destroyed each year. The only message that is clear about the impact of human food and
garbage on bears is this: a garbage-conditioned bear is a doomed bear.
It has been shown that bears that learn to associate humans and food remember the
connection for life. Poor garbage and food waste management has negative impacts on both
Grizzly Bears and humans:
- Bears may become predisposed to aggressive or "nuisance" behaviour and are
more likely to attack humans.
- Bears that become "addicted" to human food are no longer "wild."
This can adversely affect their quality of life as well as the public's perception of
- The costs of dealing with bears that are in conflict with people are high, both in terms
of tax dollars and the number of bears that have to be destroyed.
- The potential for illegal kills increases because of the vulnerability of bears near
- The health of grizzlies may be compromised through direct injury from broken glass and
sharp objects, the consumption of toxic materials (plastic, petroleum products, medicines,
chemicals) and tooth decay.
The provincial government is developing policies to reduce the amount of garbage
available to bears. An interagency committee within the Ministry of Environment
will work with key stakeholders to address the issues of waste management
regulations and the handling of other bear attractants such as orchards, compost
The Waste Management Branch of the Ministry of Environment has
earmarked $250,000 annually for controlling waste to help eliminate garbage-habituation
bears throughout the province. Through this program government will:
- Work more aggressively with regional districts to close the majority of remote landfills
and transfer stations.
- Provide support funding to regional districts to encourage building of
"predator-proof" transfer stations.
- Provide funding of up to 25 per cent to regional districts for installation of effective
electrical fencing (several pilot projects are already underway).
- Step up public education efforts for communities and individuals around the problem of
bear attractants around the home, such as barbecues and garbage cans.
- Improve enforcement of permit conditions required for waste disposal sites.
- Provide funding, in partnership with the public, for the relocation of bears that have a
high probability of a successful relocation.
- Explore ways to reduce bear conflicts around orchards.
A policy paper dealing with waste and other attractants will be released in fall 1995.
One way of dealing with bears in conflict with humans is to move the bears to a
location where there is less likelihood of interaction with humans. Although government
policy allows for the relocation of grizzly and black bears that have a high probability
of survival, relocation of bears is expensive, and is not considered highly successful.
Bears that have been habituated to people or to garbage are not good candidates for
translocation because they continue to search out garbage as a major source of food. Bears
have been known to travel hundreds of kilometres to return to learned food sources.
Injured bears, juvenile bears and bears that pose a danger to humans are also poor
candidates. More research will be conducted in order to better determine suitable
candidates for relocation.
Government recognizes hunting as an important part of our heritage that is enjoyed by
thousands of British Columbians, has spiritual and cultural significance to First Nations
and others, provides food for many people and generates more than $100 million in revenue
- mostly in rural areas. Hunters also have a long tradition of contributing to projects to
maintain and improve wildlife habitat.
We have concerns that in some areas population estimates have been inaccurate and have
led to the over-hunting of Grizzly Bears. In consideration of the gaps in our knowledge,
we must be sure to set limits on hunting that are sustainable.
The issue of hunting Grizzly Bears has polarized groups and individuals across the
province, and the debate continues. The world's leading experts disagree on the long-term
effects of hunting on Grizzly Bear sustainability. Since we are unsure as to the full
effect hunting has and will have on grizzlies, we need to ensure that we are conservative
in setting hunting limits until better information is available.
The government is taking a number steps to ensure that hunting does not exceed
- All areas of the province still open to Grizzly Bear hunting will be placed on Limited
Entry Hunting (LEH), the province's lottery system for the allocation of limited hunting
- There will be a Habitat Conservation Fund (HCF) surcharge on all bear species hunting
licences. The HCF fee will be collected at the time the license is purchased.
Revenues will be returned directly into Grizzly Bear research and inventory. The fee will
be $5 for residents of British Columbia and $30 for non-residents.
- The government will implement an accelerated program of habitat and population
inventory/research to improve population estimates and our confidence in indirect methods
of estimating population density.
- Geographic Information System (GIS) maps will be prepared showing the most accurate
boundaries for guide-outfitter territories, Management Units (MUs), CORE decisions and new
study areas and proposals. Ecologically based areas will be derived, corresponding to
approximate geographic population.
The government will continue to conduct ongoing reviews of hunting regulations and
Grizzly Bear habitat capability, to ensure that regulations and LEH quotas are updated in
order to best protect Grizzly Bear populations.
Seeing a grizzly in the wild is an experience that most people would cherish for the
rest of their lives. Bear viewing in British Columbia is an emerging form of outdoor
recreation that can affect Grizzly Bears and their habitats.
We can consider ourselves fortunate that British Columbia is still able to provide such
an experience in settings where it is relatively safe for both humans and bears. However,
being watched and photographed can have a negative impact on the wildlife being observed.
Viewing bears has special considerations that the viewing of other wildlife does not. The
mere presence of humans in bear habitat can create stress for Grizzly Bears and cause them
to abandon a habitat, temporarily or permanently. Viewers may also be at risk if bears
become too familiar with humans and lose their natural shyness of people.
Research around Grizzly Bear viewing will be conducted in order to make better
decisions about managing activities in Grizzly Bear habitats. Research is needed to
determine the impacts of bear viewing on bear behaviour and habitats and to determine
which Grizzly Bear populations and locations might be best or least suited to this
Poaching and the Trade in Wildlife Parts
The trade in bear parts has contributed greatly to the endangerment, extirpation, or
even extinction of many populations of Grizzly Bears in Asia. International activity in
this illegal business has reached alarming proportions. Although bear trade activity in
Canada centres largely on black bears, it may also present serious consequences for
Grizzly Bear populations.
In 1993, the provincial government banned the possession, trafficking, importation and
export of bear gall bladders, genitalia and bear paws separated from the carcass or hide.
The government has taken additional steps to reduce poaching and illegal killing of
Grizzly Bears in British Columbia.
Under the Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy, penalties for poaching Grizzly Bears will
be increased substantially:
- First offence fines will increase from a minimum of $200 and a maximum of $10,000 to a
minimum of $1,000 and a maximum of $25,000.
- Fines for second and subsequent offences will increase from a minimum of $1,000 and a
maximum of $25,000 to a minimum of $6,000 and a maximum of $50,000.
Enforcement efforts will be stepped up around the province in efforts to further
curtail illegal activity.
Education and Public Information
In order for the Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy to be successful, the public must
be committed to making it work. Only an informed public will be able to share the
government's commitment to Grizzly Bear conservation.
A comprehensive environmental education program is being developed for intermediate and
senior secondary-level students that will focus on the Grizzly Bear as a way of explaining
concepts of habitat integrity, carrying capacity and ecosystem management. The program
will integrate existing government environmental education learning modules.
Because Grizzly Bears and their habitats require a large land base and affect a great
number of other plant and animal species, they serve as an ideal focal point for
environmental education. By emphasizing the needs of grizzlies, an educational program
will also demonstrate the complex web of life and the importance of conservation practices
for all creatures. The intent of the program will be not only to raise awareness of the
plight of the Grizzly Bear, but also to make real the importance of ecosystem and
biodiversity preservation necessary to conserve this species and thousands of others -
including our own.
Education of the general public - outside the formal classroom - is critical to the
success of the Conservation Strategy. Increased public awareness programs and materials
will be developed in order to garner more support for Grizzly Bears and to teach people
about how to avoid potential conflicts with bears.
Public information will need to focus on key areas:
- Bear safety: Wilderness is grizzly country, and in a province with as much
wilderness as British Columbia, the education of outdoor users is critical. The prevention
of conflicts and bear safety is an issue for everyone. By becoming "bear aware"
in wilderness, people will be able to better avoid situations that may endanger themselves
and bears. Specific informational material will be targeted to outdoor user groups such as
campers, hikers, cyclists and hunters.
- Waste management: Improper storage and disposal of waste is perhaps the
number-one cause of bear attacks on humans. People must learn how to properly dispose of
waste materials both in the wild and at home in order to reduce human/bear conflicts.
- Bear ecology: Better understanding of the ecological needs of Grizzly Bears will
help the public to understand the trade-offs between development and conservation and
subsequently make better decisions during land-use planning processes around the province.
- Understanding legislation and regulations: Informational packages outlining new
regulations and legislation around Grizzly Bear conservation will be made available to
guide outfitters and hunters, in order to avoid increases in violations. All regulations
are detailed in the annual Hunting and Trapping Regulations Synopsis.
Community awareness programs will be delivered across the province through
regional government agencies, including the Ministry of Environment, Ministry
of Forests, Federal Department of Canadian Heritage and educational programs
"Project Wild" and "The Green Team". Community and private
sector partners will also play an important role in increasing public awareness
Groups such as the Northwest Wildlife Preservation Society have produced bear
programs, including "Bears in our Backyards" and "Bear-friendly
Government has a commitment to public involvement and consultation with any
environmental initiative that might have an impact on resource use.
Throughout the implementation and further development of the Grizzly Bear Conservation
Strategy, government will be seeking input and comment from First Nations, the general
public and interested stakeholders.
The Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy will be integrated with many of the current
planning initiatives and land use processes (e.g., PAS, LRMPs, TSA reviews), all of which
have a public involvement component. The public is invited to review and comment on the
Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy.
British Columbia is the heart of North America's remaining Grizzly Bear range. Much of
the present Grizzly Bear habitat is shared between British Columbia and the United States.
While British Columbia is home to half of Canada's grizzlies, we also have the fastest
growing human population in Canada. We have the responsibility to act now in order to
conserve grizzlies in North America. The international spotlight will be upon us as we
embark on this ambitious and important conservation strategy.
The conservation of grizzlies requires the cooperation of all jurisdictions in which
they occur. British Columbia will take a leadership role in managing Grizzly Bears in
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Fuhr, B., and D. A. Demarchi. 1990. A Methodology for Grizzly Bear Habitat Assessment
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Lynch, W. 1993. Bears: Monarchs of the Northern Wilderness. Douglas & McIntyre,
Servheen, C. 1992. Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan. 2nd review draft. U.S. Fish and Wildlife
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