The provincial government must get serious on protecting grizzly bears which are increasingly being pushed out of their habitat by resource and recreational activities, says a Central Alberta outdoorsman.
Bob Scammell of Red Deer said he believes the province must pay more attention to bear management.
Part of that involves preventing some mineral development and recreational access, like ATVs, in areas where bears frequent, he said.
“They’re moving east,” said Scammell, a longtime columnist with the Red Deer Advocate. “The people of Sundre are contending this is what’s been happening the last three years.”
Last fall, a Didsbury hunter was killed by a grizzly sow west of the Little Red Deer River in Mountain View County. Last month, a pair of miniature donkeys were killed by bears near Sundre. The grizzlies were trapped and relocated.
Scammell said the province should consider setting aside wild areas where the grizzlies can survive.
“We should set a big enclave for them, set the boundaries and then allow people to hunt them beyond those boundaries,” said Scammell. “Bears that insist on extending their range are dead.”
He also believes officials should study initiatives done in Yellowstone National Park, Wyo. A park foundation there is fundraising to buy “bear boxes”, large bear-proof, storage containers.
Scammell was reacting to news that Alberta Sustainable Resource Development is delaying a decision on lifting a three-year-old ban on grizzly hunting until a thorough review is done on numbers and bear habitat.
An independent reviewer will first go over information and reports about grizzly bear numbers. A report will be compiled for a scientific peer review.
The process is expected to continue into 2010.
“Probably no one will ever know how many grizzlies there are in this province,” Scammell said. “But if a real effort is made to find out, including a peer review, then that is a good idea.”
Scammell, a past president of the Alberta Fish and Game Association, said the postponement is good because “all parties to this dispute are really being a little emotional, if not stupid about it.”
Wildlife groups believe there are fewer than 500 grizzlies in the province; therefore, they should be declared a threatened species.
The Alberta Fish and Game Association wants the hunt reinstated, citing recent fatal attacks on humans and animals in the Sundre area.
The grizzly hunt was suspended in 2006 over concerns that numbers were too low.
Kathy Blain, a Mountain View County councillor and chairwoman of the county’s BearSmart Society, said the group hasn’t weighed into the controversy.
“Our focus is mainly education, notification,” she said. “There are bears in the area and our intent is keeping people and bears safe.”