Grizzly No. 122, ‘The Boss’ of Banff, wakes up from winter hibernation 

By Daniel Katz, Bow Valley Crag & Canyon

The biggest, baddest grizzly in Banff, No. 122, also known as ‘The Boss’, was spotted Wednesday morning wandering the railway tracks near Castle Junction, the first confirmed sighting of a bear in the mountain national parks so far this year.

No. 122 was first seen by a member of the public, who called in the sighting to Parks Canada.

“He’s just in the Castle Junction area, and is feeding on grain along the railway tracks there,” said Steve Michel, human-wildlife conflict specialist with Banff National Park, stating Parks staff verified the sighting after receiving the report.

Mid-March is the time when large male grizzlies come out of their winter hibernation and begin to be active on the landscape in search of their first meals in months.

Believed to be approximately 16 years old, No. 122 is considered to be one of the largest, most dominant grizzlies on the landscape.

Sporting a thick coat of fur grown over the winter, Michel said No. 122’s weight is estimated to be between 400 and 500 pounds currently.

He was last collared from 2012 to 2013, and wildlife officials found that his range covered more than 2,500 square kilometres in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay parks, mostly along highways and railways. Despite being hit by a train many years ago, he continues to use habitats heavily developed by humans to exploit food resources there.

“Because the Bow Valley is a very busy place and there are a lot of humans that occupy this landscape, he’s well-adjusted to humans and human facilities, and he seems to be relatively indifferent to our presence,” said Michel.

Michel added that snow on the ground will likely cause No. 122 to stay close to railway tracks in order to find food sources.

“We expect to see that he will continue with that behaviour for the next few weeks, and then as additional foraging opportunities become available, such as the first green grass starts to emerge, and dandelions and digging roots, any of these vegetation options he will take advantage of,” said Michel. “He certainly will take advantage of any opportunity he can to find carcasses on the landscape, animals that haven’t survived the harsh winter.”

Starting in May No. 122 is expected to roam the landscape in search of females as we get into the spring breeding season, which will dictate most of movements through May and June.

“Because of his size, he is certainly one of the more dominant grizzly bears that we have in the Bow Valley, and he certainly travels through the landscape with a significant amount of confidence,” said Michel.

Since ‘The Boss’ is not currently radio-collared, it is unknown when he first emerged from his den this season.

He has fathered a number of other high-profile bears in the area, based on a limited DNA analysis of five cubs from two different females. That study revealed he was the father of all those five offspring, and it is possible he may have sired many others, says Michel.

He bred with No. 72, a well-known female from the Lake Louise area, which resulted in two offspring, No. 142 and No. 143.

He also sired three cubs with female grizzly No. 64, a high-profile bear from the Banff area. The litter of that coupling resulted in bears No. 144, 148 and 160.

Grizzly No. 144 was the male who was destroyed by Alberta fish and wildlife officers in 2015 for killing sheep and llamas on a farm near Sundre, and No. 148, a female, has been seen on numerous occasions touring between Canmore and Banff. Last summer, a section of the Legacy Trail outside the Banff east gates closed due to No. 148 travelling close to the bike path.

Over the weekend, fresh grizzly tracks were seen on Kananaskis Country Golf Course, indicating bears were starting to wake up in the region.

John Paczkowski, ecologist with Alberta Environment and Parks, says they do not yet have GPS collar data showing that bears are active.

Parks Canada officials in Waterton and Jasper national parks stated that as of Wednesday they have not received reports of any bears on the landscape.

Sows and cubs usually come out of their dens in middle to late May, depending on the weather, because mothers are still nursing their young and spring is a difficult season to find food.

“Typically, it’s the adult males who come out first, and then the females with cubs are last, so it would be over the next month or even more we’ll see them come out depending on the sex and the reproductive status,” said Paczkowski.

With the arrival of warmer weather, Michel says people need start being aware of the fact that bears are waking up.

“People should now be thinking about bears, and they should be thinking about bears around their homes and campsites with respect to managing attractants … garbage, recycling, bird feeders, barbecues, pet food — all that stuff needs to be really secure,” he said. “When people are out enjoying the landscape, whether it’s hiking or snowshoeing or skiing, they need to be thinking about travelling in a group, being bear aware, carrying bear spray with them and making sure their dogs are kept on a leash.”

DKatz@postmedia.com

http://www.thecragandcanyon.ca/2017/03/23/grizzly-no-122-the-boss-of-banff-wakes-up-from-winter-hibernation

 

Outrageous Anti-Animal Acts Planned for Alaska

From: HSUS.org

Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate chose to turn nightmare into reality for animals living in our nation’s wildlife refuges — federal land in Alaska specifically set aside for them to thrive, not to become targets of inhumane and unsporting killing methods.

By a 52 to 47 party-line vote, Senators voted to repeal a 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule forbidding the most outrageous acts:

Black bears being caught in painful snare traps while foraging for food …

Wolf pups being shot point-blank in their dens …

Grizzly bears being chased by plane or helicopter before being shot down by trophy hunters …

All this cruelty and suffering for trophies.

With this heartbreaking vote, Congress enabled 76 million acres of our national wildlife refuges to become killing fields for trappers, baiters and spring trophy hunters.

The politicians in Washington who voted to allow these cruel practices do not represent the views of regular Americans on animal welfare or wildlife conservation. They sided with the special interests who want to kill wolf pups and hibernating grizzly bears for pleasure.

And this is only one of the recent attacks on animals:

  • Congress is trying to cherry-pick wolves from the federal list of endangered species, exposing them to trophy hunting, commercial trapping and hounding.
  • The Department of the Interior will allow millions of birds and other animals to suffer from lead poisoning by reversing an order restricting the use of toxic lead ammunition on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands.
  • Tennessee walking horses are still at risk of having chemicals burned into their skin until the anti-soring rule is unfrozen under the new administration.
  • And the U.S. Department of Agriculture has purged its website of government inspection reports on thousands of puppy mills, roadside zoos and other facilities.

The life of an Alberta man who lived with the grizzlies, Charlie Russell

http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/the-life-of-an-alberta-man-who-lived-with-the-grizzlies-charlie-russell

UPLOADED BY: Jamie Hall ::: EMAIL: jhall@edmontonjournal.com ::: PHONE: (780) 429-5256 ::: CREDIT: Maureen Enns ::: CAPTION: Charlie Russell lived among the bears in Kamchatka, Russia, for several years and determined they are not dangerous animals. He will be making a presentation at Festival Place Wednesday about his lifelong work; for Jamie Hall story.
Charlie Russell in Kamchatka, Russia where he spent 13 years living with and studying grizzly bears. Russell is in Calgary Tuesday giving a lecture on his perceptions and life living with the bears.

Soaring over the Kamchatka Peninsula, an armadillo-shaped chunk of subarctic land hanging off the eastern tip of Russia, you can fly for hours over miles of greenery, rivers and volcanoes without seeing any signs of civilization.

Within this vast expanse of wilderness sat a solitary cabin, where Canadian naturalist Charlie Russell lived for more than 13 years studying — and eventually, befriending — grizzly bears.

Growing up on a ranch near Cochrane, Russell said he was always troubled by what he felt were misconceptions about grizzlies (now more commonly known as brown bears). Could they be as vicious, as dangerous, as bloodthirsty as everyone made them out to be?

So Russell embarked on what turned into a decade-long mission living amongst 400 bears in his little cabin off Kambalnoye Lake in Russia.

“Back in the ‘60s, I decided there were two ideas about bears that were not true. One, that they were unpredictable. Two, that they were inherently dangerous if they lost their fear of people,” Russell said.

“I didn’t think that was fair,” he said. “I could see they needed to share the land with us, but we demanded they were fearful. It was a huge problem for bears because it gave us so many excuses to kill them, and that wasn’t very generous on our part.”

And so for most of the ‘90s and 2000s, Russell lived in Russia, almost completely isolated from humanity with only a rickety old plane to get him to and from where he needed to go.

He set up a small electric fence around his cabin to keep the bears away from his living quarters and food, and began his mission of what he said not many people have bothered to do: form relationships with, and try to truly understand the psychological nature of bears.

It started out slow. Russell would wander down trails, and if he came across a grizzly, he would step politely off the path, giving the bear room to meander by.

By the end of his time in Kamchatka, Russell was not only raising cubs of his own that he rescued from zoos, but was even granted the honour of watching over a female grizzly’s cubs while she took some much-needed alone time.

“There are a lot of bad feelings towards bears, especially females because they’re very protective of their cubs,” he said. “But my experience was just the opposite. If they trust you, they’re wonderful. I even had one leave her cubs with me to babysit — that would never happen in any other situation.”

Raising cubs, going on hikes with his quiet, but inquisitive friends, even helping them fish by teaching them hand signals — this was the life of Charlie Russell for years.

Now living in Alberta on his family ranch near Waterton Park, Russell, 75, has taken a break from his long study of bears to travel around the world educating people about grizzlies.

“I decided bears weren’t the problem — it was what we thought about them,” he said.

“Just because they get up on picnic bench and eat some ketchup, doesn’t mean they should be killed. I know of a bear that was killed for that very reason,” Russell said.

“But I think young people are ready to do things differently — they’re tired of killing bears for what seems like not very good reasons. I want to educate people every chance I get,” he said.

And Calgarians have a chance to do just that — hear about and learn from Russell, who is giving a lecture on bears and his experiences at the John Dutton Theatre (616 Macleod Trail S.E.) Tuesday evening from 7 p.m.-9 p.m. in support of the Great Divide Trail Association.

B.C. grizzly bears could be shipped to Washington State

Kendra MangioneWeb Journalist / Digital Content Editor, CTV Vancouver

@kendramangione

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.

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

National Park Service - potential release area

Photo@ Jim Robertson

Justice for BC Grizzlies

Help BC Grizzly Bears by contacting BC political candidates and ask for #TrophyFreeBC + #BanTrophyHunting.

Our Thunderclap campaign to Ban the Grizzly Hunt in British Columbia launched on March 10/17 with 304 supporters and a social reach of over 500, 000. That campaign is now closed but the pledge campaign and survey of political candidates are still active. Thank you to all who joined the Thunderclap campaign and helped to get this time-sensitive message out there.

NOW is the time to take this campaign to the next critical step. We ask all BC residents to take action by contacting political candidates in their riding, and elsewhere in BC, and asking them where they stand on ending the BC grizzly hunt.

TAKING ACTION IS EASY TO DO!

1. GO TO https://justiceforbcgrizzlies.com/2017-provincial-election-grizzly-survey-results/ and check your riding to see which candidates have responded to the survey that asked where they stand on the BC grizzly hunt. If a candidate in your riding has not responded to the survey, call and ask them to do so.

2. GO TO justiceforbcgrizzlies.com Call to Action, where you will find information, links and three sample letters that you can use verbatim, or adapt with your own words. These letters can be sent online or surface mail to candidates in your riding and to politicians currently in government. Addresses for key political leaders can be found at https://justiceforbcgrizzlies.com/pledge-for-grizzlies-campaign/ where you can also take the pledge for grizzlies.

UPCOMING EVENT:  Rally for BC Grizzlies,  April 1/17, 1-2:30 at the Legislature in Victoria.  April 1st marks the first day of the hunt in most regions of the province.  Join us to stand up for Grizzly Bears!

The fight is on over grizzly hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest

http://wuwm.com/post/fight-over-grizzly-hunting-great-bear-rainforest#stream/0

  JAN 31, 2017 

The small outboard boat I’m in is floating along the estuary of the Nekite River.

It’s a cloudless morning and just beyond the bow there’s rustling of trees and the sound of branches snapping.

I’m holding my microphone as far out as I can — so that I can record the sound of a male grizzly, on the shore about 15 yards away.

My guide here is Tom Rivest. “That is the sound that is called either chuffing or huffing. It sounds a little bit like bellows expelling air,” says Rivest. “The bears do that when they’re stressed — or excited, or a little both — which they probably are.”

The reason this bear is excited is that it’s mating season and he’s following a female and her two cubs.

Related: The Great Bear Rainforest is a model for how to save trees

Rivest co-owns a floating lodge here and has been taking tourists to this spot for 15 years.

So he knows this bear. He calls it Bo Diddley.

“Bo and I go back 10 years,” says Rivest. “So he was just a little scrawny thing back then. And now he’s quite large — probably an 800-pound bear.”

Bears like Bo Diddley are a big draw for tourists paying top dollar to see them. But there’s another type of tourist looking for bears here. Before I came here, I called up another guide to see what draws his customers.

“They’re world class as far as size and weight — and skull measurement.”

Skull measurement is one of the criteria for guide outfitters like Peter Klaui.

He owns a hunting license for a huge swath of the Great Bear Rainforest and runs a guiding company.

Klaui’s current license allows the hunting of 23 bears over five years, with a maximum of 7 per year.

Hunters pay him upwards of $20,000 for a trip here. But the hunting culture here may be winding down.

Earlier this year, the British Columbia government officially endorsed the practice of conservation groups buying hunting licenses from guides like Peter Klaui.

“Previously we just went and did it,” says Chris Genovali, head of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

In cooperation with Coastal First Nations, an alliance of aboriginal groups, Genovali’s foundation helps raise the millions of dollars needed to buy the hunting license tenures. They already own rights to about a third of the Great Bear Rainforest.

Genovali is no fan of trophy hunting in general, but he says it’s particularly cruel to hunt grizzlies here because they’re out in the open, grazing in estuaries or following a salmon run.

“It’s like someone walking into your kitchen or your dining room as you’re eating your breakfast or dinner and shooting you,” says Genovali. “It’s obscene. It’s becoming viewed by an overwhelming majority of the public as a fringe behavior.”

Genovali points to a poll in which only 10 percent of those who responded supported trophy hunting.

But there’s sort of a wink and a nod in conservationists’ deal with the government. In order to buy the hunting licenses, his group has to use them.

“We’ve had to show what’s called commercial activity,” explains Genovali. Once a year, they take out tourists for a fake hunt.

“We take clients on hunts in our guide outfitting territories and we look for bears — the difference is we shoot them with cameras.”

The BC government has agreed to an outright end to commercial grizzly bear hunting in some native territory in the Great Bear.

So the pressure is clearly on hunting guides. But Klaui says he isn’t worried about his business.

“Nothing has changed since that announcement and I don’t expect it to change,” says Klaui. He says he’s still getting calls from hunters. But Klaui also says he’s planning to retire at some point soon and might sell his license.

And he might even sell it to a conservation or aboriginal group if they offered him the most money. “If they want to eliminate or slow down hunting of carnivores in the Great Bear Rainforest, they can do like anybody else and offer to buy out the business, just like on Wall Street.”

As for the grizzlies grazing on sedge grass on the Nekite River, they are safe from the crosshair of a rifle.

Raincoast Conservation Foundation owns the commercial hunting rights here. The area is also off limits to local resident hunters.

Rivest says that’s important because these bears have become used to humans.

“The biggest issue with viewing and hunting is that bears get used to being around people and they no longer have that innate fear so it is really not fair to hunt them.”

And that’s what the debate about hunting here really comes down to — fairness, and values.

The BC government estimates there are around 15,000 grizzlies in the province. And hunters kill between 250 and 300 grizzlies per year in BC.

So they’re not endangered. It’s more that the social clock seems to be running out on commercial trophy hunting.

For the grizzlies along the Nekite River, humans certainly don’t seem to be a threat.

If Bo Diddley was afraid of us he didn’t show it. He seemed more concerned with where that female grizzly was headed.

From PRI’s The World ©2016 PRI

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Keep Grizzlies Protected: A New Film About Why Grizzlies Still Need Federal Protectio

December 19, 2016

|Louisa Willcox

http://www.keepgrizzliesprotected.com/

http://www.grizzlytimes.org/single-post/2016/12/19/Keep-Grizzlies-Protected-A-New-Film-About-Why-Grizzlies-Still-Need-Federal-Protection

Today marks the release of a film entitled Keep Grizzlies Protected (http://www.keepgrizzliesprotected.com/) by noted filmmakers Anthony Birkholz and Marni Walsh. The film features leading scientists who speak out about threats to the future of the grizzly bear, and raise concerns about the federal government’s stated intention to strip federal protections from grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem early next year.

 

Delisting would expose the threatened population to trophy hunting. World-renowned scientists, as well as leading scientific societies, have expressed deep concern about the risk that state-sponsored sport hunting and other harmful policies will pose to grizzly bears. The grizzly bear is especially vulnerable because of its low reproductive rates, and much-diminished numbers since European settlers arrived.  Even with federal protections, grizzly bears still number just 3% of what they once were in the lower 48 states. An unprecedented number of citizens share these concerns about the future of the grizzly in and around the Nation’s first park.

 

The film features a cast of the “who’s who” of experts on large carnivores, endangered species and climate change. Scientists include Dr. Jane Goodall, Dr. David Mattson, Dr. Rob Wielgus, Dr. Jesse Logan, Dr. Diana Six, Dr. Brad Bergstrom and Dr. Jeremy Bruskotter.  Yvon Chouinard, world-famous climber, founder of Patagonia, and conservationist, also spoke in an interview about one of his passions: climate change.

 

I felt compelled to take on producing this film after reading the inspired comments of these and other experts submitted last spring to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in response to a draft delisting proposal. I have read countless comment letters to the government in my 30 plus years as a conservationist in the Northern Rockies. But in its most recent delisting plan, the FWS so overstepped the bounds of commonsense and scientific integrity as to unleash a stunning backlash by experts. Rarely have I seen such a sweeping condemnation by independent scientists of a government grizzly bear management proposal.

 

What the Experts Say About Delisting and Trophy Hunting

In its draft delisting proposal, some of the FWS’s claims were “ludicrous”, according to retired Forest Service ecologist Dr. Jesse Logan. Logan was referring here to FWS’ bald-faced assertion that climate change has not had and would never have adverse impacts on grizzlies. In fact, “climate change is affecting everything that the grizzlies use for food and habitat,” said Dr. Diana Six, Forest Pathologist at the University of Montana.

 

Dr. Jane Goodall, primatologist and ethologist, observed: “Two of the bear’s major foods have been all but wiped out due to climate change, disease, and invasive species.”

 

In the interviews, a number of the scientists focused on the threat of renewing trophy hunting after 40 years of federal endangered species protections. Dr. Rob Wielgus, Director of Washington State University’s Large Carnivore Lab said: “The largest obstacles for recovery of the Yellowstone and Grand Teton bears is human-caused mortality and the greatest potential future obstacle is even greater human-caused mortality as per the proposed hunting seasons in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.”

 

Dr. Jane Goodall offered: “I was really shocked to hear about this. Actually, I found it hard to believe, because they face so many threats to their survival. If the grizzlies are delisted, and states open a hunting season, I think many hearts would break. I know mine would.”

 

Many scientists cited the problem of the grizzly bear’s long isolation from other populations. “Grizzly bear recovery really comes down to whether we can connect the Yellowstone population with populations of grizzly bears elsewhere,” said Dr. David Mattson, retired biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “If we can’t, the ecosystem continues to unravel, densities continue to decline, they’re going to be that much more vulnerable potentially to extirpation.”

 

Experts challenged the recovery targets as being too low to ensure the long-term health of the population. Dr. Jesse Logan noted that: “Fish and Wildlife contends that we have a viable population with 700 bears. Analysis by the American Society of Mammalogists says no, the effective breeding population is going to require over twice that many bears, so we have to allow enough habitat for bears to expand into –– and it exists here, it’s just that they’re not allowed to do it.”

 

Dr. Brad Bergstrom, Conservation Biologist and Professor at Valdosta State University, put the grizzly delisting decision in the context of a deeper problem inherent in FWS’ approach to endangered species recovery: “The whole idea of recovery planning and recovery goals, they (FWS) seem to be stuck in this outmoded philosophy of picking a magic number. We’re going to set a target and 20 or 30 years later we’re going to come back to that target that we set… and we’re going to just be faithful to that target number… without regarding any of the scientific advances made within those last 20 to 30 years. Now that, to me, does not honor the letter of the Endangered Species Act, which says that their decision should be based on the best currently available science. The science changes. But their quotas, their goals, their magic numbers, they don’t change.”

 

Unprecedented Public Outcry Over Delisting, Sport Hunting

The film comes at a time when people across the country have expressed unprecedented and passionate opposition to the proposed removal of Endangered Species Act protections, along with clear support for vigorous recovery measures. Over 800,000 people recently signed petitions to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of the Interior, asking for continued protection of Yellowstone grizzlies, rather than devolution of management to the states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, which are notoriously hostile to carnivores (link).

 

Dr. Jeremy Bruskotter, a social scientist with The Ohio State University said: “We have really good public data that suggests that while people are generally supportive of hunting, they are not supportive of trophy hunting. I don’t want to say no one, but let’s just say very few people are going out to hunt grizzly bears that are going to hunt them for food. Right? They’re hunting them for the purpose of trophy for self-gratification, and that from a public standpoint is very, very controversial. It’s something that the data show that clearly the public just does not support.”

 

Over 50 Indian Tribes have also formally opposed sport hunting the Great Bear, an animal they have long viewed as sacred (http://www.goaltribal.org/).

 

The Solution: Connect Populations, Improve Coexistence Practices, Keep Grizzlies Protected

In the film, scientists’ offer simple and clear recommendations: keep bears protected, redouble recovery efforts to connect the long-isolated Yellowstone grizzlies to neighboring sub-populations, allow bears to expand into suitable habitat, and improve practices that allow humans to coexist with bears. These measures will also improve the ability of bears to adapt to a changing climate.

 

Such steps are also consistent with widely shared public attitudes. Dr. Jeremy Bruskotter noted that: “Public opinion polling suggests that people generally want bears to be listed. They want to see further recovery efforts. We can glean some information from the public comments that were filed on behalf or in response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services proposal to delist bears that suggest that people would like to see more grizzly bears in more places, and would like to see those populations protected.”

 

The Endangered Species Act matters for another important reason. According to Dr. David Mattson, “the ESA is one of the few laws that unambiguously gives all the American public a voice in management of wildlife. Otherwise, management of virtually all wildlife is in the hands of state wildlife management agencies, which is a problem. The American public should have a voice under other circumstances than just jeopardy. For example, with Yellowstone’s grizzly bears, regardless of whether you think they are endangered or not, here we have a population of a species that is of national interest. And the national public deserves a voice in their management, not only now but in perpetuity.”

 

The film concludes by asking viewers to request that President Obama respond to public opinion and withdraw the proposed rule to remove federal Endangered Species Act protections from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s grizzly bears, and employ the best available science to promote the long overdue recovery of this iconic species.

NDP pledge to end grizzly hunt brings debate out of hibernation

By Ezra Black

In 2008, Elk Valley hunter Mario Rocca shot a grizzly bear.

It was the culmination of over two decades of effort. Permits to hunt grizzlies are hard to come by and that year only one was issued for the Elk Valley.

In next May’s provincial election, hunters like Rocca could be setting their sights on New Democrat John Horgan who has promised to end B.C.’s grizzly bear hunt if his party forms the next government.

They’ll be armed with votes and not rifles.

“I know a lot more about bears than the leader of the NDP. I don’t know if he’s ever seen a grizzly bear in the wild,” said Rocca, a past-president of the Fernie Rod and Gun Club. “He’s not a hunter. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to wildlife. He’s governed by emotion, not science. From the hunters’ perspective things are being managed. We’re not going to run out of grizzly bears.”

In 2000, the NDP banned the grizzly hunt. In 2001, the Liberals were elected and ended the ban.

Tom Shypitka, the Liberal candidate for East Kootenay, said the New Democrats lost several rural seats in 2001 in part because of their stance on grizzly bear hunting. He said their decision to go for another ban betrays an urban bias.

“My reaction to the NDP’s announcement was astonishment and disappointment,” he said. “They have rural members. They went through this in 2001. They have to know there are enough bears to hunt and that rural people believe in hunting. The only explanation for their decision to ban something that is supported in rural B.C. is that they have written off rural B.C. They must remember. Obviously they don’t care about rural seats.”

Shypitka accused the NDP of making “a wildlife management decision on the basis of emotion, politics and urban bias.”

“Wildlife management decisions should be made on the basis of what the science supports,” he said. “If there are enough bears in a unit to support a hunt, a hunt is allowed. If there are insufficient bears to support a hunt, no hunt is allowed. That is how wildlife should be managed.”

Further left on the political spectrum, Randal Macnair, the NDP’s candidate for East Kootenay, said he’s “always supported science-based wildlife management,” but that the Liberals have got it all wrong.

“I understand why a ban has been proposed,” he said. “It is in large part a result of the appalling mismanagement of wildlife and habitat by the BC Liberals.”

Macnair said that while the Liberals have been touting their environmental management system, the fact remains that grizzly bear populations in the East Kootenay are in trouble.

“Grizzly bears used to roam from Manitoba to Mexico all across western North America,” he said. “B.C. is now their last stronghold and they are no longer living in some areas in the southern portion of our province including the Rocky Mountain Trench. A BC NDP government will work to bring everyone together to protect this special, iconic animal.”

Horgan’s announcement is dividing politicians and hunters but recently published studies suggest the real losers in the Elk Valley are bears.

Corinne Hoetmer, project coordinator for The South Rockies Grizzly Bear Project in the Elk Valley, said that while hunting accounts for a number of grizzly bear deaths a much larger number are killed in other human-bear conflicts.

The South Rockies Grizzly Bear Project is a long term, ongoing population inventory of grizzly bears lead by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations in the Kootenay Region.

Hoetmer said the Elk Valley has become an ecological trap for grizzly bears. The animals are drawn to the valley because of food and are then killed by humans.

“More grizzlies die from non-hunting related causes in this area than anywhere else in B.C.,” she said.

Citing a paper published by Mowatt and Lamb on the population of grizzly bears in the Southern Rockies and Flathead, Hoetmer said the South Rockies grizzly bear population declined by 40 per cent between 2006 and 2014. This decline was most likely due to a decade of poor foraging in combination with an increase in human-caused mortality.

There were 116 grizzly bear mortalities recorded in the South Rockies and 44 in the Flathead during this period.

Of the human-caused mortalities in the South Rockies, 38 per cent were hunter kills, 25 per cent were for animal control and other similar reasons, 28 per cent occurred on highways and railways and 8 per cent were illegal. In the Flathead, 91 per cent of recorded kills were by hunters and 9 per cent were control kills.

“This non-hunting mortality is much more difficult to mitigate than the regulatory changes involved with mitigating mortality due to hunting,” said Hoetmer.

Joe Caravetta, an inspector with the B.C. Conservation Service’s Kootenay-Boundary region, explained the number of grizzly bears hunted in the Elk Valley varies from year to year depending on population estimates.

“There are bears shot in self-defense, there are bears that are shot for protection of property, there are bears killed on the highway and there are bears killed by railways,” he said. “After taking those things into consideration we decide on what the population can handle.”

The Wildlife Act requires certain parts of an animal to be packed out of the bush once it’s been shot. While a hunter may choose to pack out its hide, paws or head, there is no requirement to pack out a grizzly bear’s meat, he said.

Grizzly bear meat is not generally eaten because it can carry the parasite that causes trichinosis, said Caravetta. The number of grizzly hunting permits issued in the Elk Valley is small. From 2013 to 2015, only one was given out.

“It’s probably the most intensely managed hunt in the province,” he said. “It’s the highest profile.”

Calling the practice “primarily a trophy hunt,” Wildsight, a Kootenay-based environmental group, has come out in favour of the ban.

“It is clear that hunting has a significant impact on grizzly bear populations in the region,” said John Bergenske, Wildsight’s conservation director. “Eliminating the hunt should significantly increase grizzly bear survival. Grizzly bears are very slow reproducers, so loss of any females in a population can significantly impact the long-term health of a population.”

http://www.thefreepress.ca/news/405699036.html

Students put pressure on premier to ban trophy hunting of grizzlies

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– Victoria News

Students at Glenlyon Norfolk School are trying to ban trophy hunting of grizzly bears in the province.

For more than a year, Marisa Smith, Giulia Giommi and Lily Wieczorek have been researching and sending letters to B.C. Premier Christy Clark, advocating for the provincial government to abolish trophy hunting of grizzly bears.

“The grizzly bear population is really important to the ecosystem. If the grizzly bear population is taken out of the environment, then the entire ecosystem will collapse and become imbalanced,” said Marisa, 13.

“It’s really important and we need to make sure the ecosystem remains balanced…We want to stop some of these issues that are really hurting the environment and that ultimately affects us and all the animals around us.”

According to Pacific Wild, an organization that defends wildlife and its habitat on the Pacific Coast, between 300 and 400 grizzlies are killed every year in B.C. by hunters who want their heads as trophies.

Thirteen-year-old Giulia had the opportunity to see grizzly bears in their natural habitat during a bear watching tour in the summer. As part of the tour, they climbed up a tower and were able to see 12 different grizzly bears going about their business within a few hours.

“We can’t just have a place where there’s some bears alive…all of B.C. should be protected, not just some of it,” Giulia said.

Since then, the group has been spreading the word, telling local politicians about the cause.

In November they met with NDP MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake Rob Fleming, who was in support of the cause, calling the practice outdated and backwards. A few days later, the NDP pledged to ban grizzly bear trophy hunting if they’re elected into office during the next provincial election in May.

“The government has become more and more out of step with its citizens…We could be doing so much better, not just for the bears but for British Columbians who need jobs and who want to promote the wonderful tourism experience that our diverse regions have to offer,” Fleming said, adding the government should be focused on promoting bear watching tours, not killing them.

“This is another group of students who are doing amazing things in our community and learning and becoming experts on issues that our province has to tackle. It’s always great to see students learning essentially to become effective advocates and researchers on public policy.”

The girls remain optimistic they’ll be able to set up a face-to-face meeting with the premier to advocate for their cause. In the meantime, they plan on meeting with other NPD MLAs and doing a speech about the ban to the NDP caucus in the new year.

The advocacy is part of the school’s United Conservationists Environmental Club, which meets twice a week to discuss a number of environmental issues. Groups are also working on helping tigers, penguins and sharks.

Spike in Yellowstone grizzly deaths tied to conflicts with humans

By Laura Zuckerman | SALMON, IDAHO Dec. 1

U.S. wildlife managers at Yellowstone National Park are reporting an unusually high number of grizzly bear deaths, 55, linked to humans this year in a trend believed tied to a growing number of the bruins harming livestock or challenging hunters over freshly killed game.

The uptick in bear deaths comes as the Obama administration says the population of roughly 690 bears in and around Yellowstone has come back from the brink of extinction and should be stripped of U.S. Endangered Species Act protections.

The plan, proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this year, opens the way for hunting in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, the Northern Rocky Mountain states that border the park.

The measure is strongly opposed by conservationists and Native American tribes but supported by sportsmen and ranchers who claim the number of conflicts will diminish by targeting bears that bounce hunters off freshly shot game or which harm livestock.

The carcasses of at least 55 Yellowstone area bears have been found so far this year, with most dying from human-related activities, according to figures compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey. Nearly half the grizzlies were killed by government bear managers for preying on cattle, sheep and the like.

Wildlife advocates fear that the final tally for 2016 will exceed the 61 bears known or believed to have died in the Yellowstone area last year, a high in the decades since such moralities have been tracked.

That compares to 28 grizzlies known or likely dead in 2014 and 29 in 2013, according to government records.

Gregg Losinksi, member of a federal and state team that oversees Yellowstone grizzlies, said some bears running into conflicts are seeking to expand their range into areas already occupied by humans or other grizzlies.

“As far as we’re concerned, the population is maxed out based on the available habitat and we’re seeing more and more deaths because of this density,” he said.

Conservationists say they are alarmed by the number of Yellowstone area bears that have died in 2016, the third year the overall population has fallen.

“The mortalities keep escalating and the population keeps dropping. We don’t think now is the time to remove Endangered Species Act protections; we need more time to study these trends,” said the Sierra Club’s Bonnie Rice.

(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Sandra Maler)

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