Published Tuesday, March 14, 2017 7:08PM PDT
Washington State is looking at ways to boost its grizzly population, including bringing in bears from north of the border.
A proposal from the National Parks Service suggests shipping in grizzlies from a nearby area with bruins to spare, like British Columbia or Montana.
If approved, some of the roughly 15,000 grizzly bears living in B.C. could be captured and sent south, to a part of the state that used to be flush with the species.
Ann Froschauer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says they estimate there are fewer than 10 grizzlies in the Northern Cascades ecosystem, an area in northern Washington east of the I-5 corridor. The bears chosen to head to the area would be selected for the sole purpose of repopulating.
“We’d be looking to have a self-sustaining population of bears that would then continue to grow that population over the years,” Froschauer said.
The proposal is currently open for public input, and Canadians are welcome to share their thoughts, by clicking “Comment Now” on the page they’ve set up for the project.
More than 100,000 people have weighed in on the debate so far, largely due to an online campaign started by a Seattle cartoonist. Matthew Inman, the man behind theoatmeal.com, used social media and his website to get signatures from supporters of the plan. On Twitter, he wrote that he’d spoken with the National Park Service Monday to get the deadline for feedback extended.
While some in the States are fully supportive of the idea, other advocates north of the border are not yet on board with the plan.
“We want to see grizzly bears thrive wherever they are,” said Rachel Forbes, executive director of the Grizzly Bear Foundation.
“But we think the B.C. government has a lot more questions to answer before we decide to export populations of grizzly bears. We need to do a better job of managing them here first.”
The foundation says there are several areas of B.C. where the species is threatened, and others where populations have disappeared entirely.
“Before we say yes to this, we need to take a better look at the cumulative impacts here in B.C.,” Forbes said.
The U.S. government expects to make a decision early next year. The B.C. Ministry of Environment says the province will work with U.S. officials at that time to determine its level of involvement.
With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Scott Hurst