‘Risk of bear mortality:’ Study finds people, not roads, bug grizzlies the most

EDMONTON — It’s not necessarily the roads in the backcountry that bother grizzly bears. Sometimes, it’s the people on them.

That’s one of the conclusions of new research from the University of Alberta — and it could have big implications for resource development.

“There’s no doubt that roads themselves are probably not that bad for bears,” said Clayton Lamb, a University of Alberta biologist and co-author of a paper published Tuesday in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

Lamb and his colleagues used DNA marking to study the movements of 74 grizzlies over 8,000 square kilometres of wilderness in southern British Columbia between Oliver and Castlegar. They were trying to assess the relationship between road density and bear populations.

Previous studies concluded that anything higher than 0.6 kilometres of road per square kilometre was linked with declining numbers. But Lamb said that figure mostly concerns cub survival and habitat use.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean there’s fewer bears.”

The study Lamb was part of confirmed more roads do mean fewer bears. Grizzlies were about three times as common where road density was beneath the threshold, given equal habitat quality.

“Roads and the humans that travel on them do increase both the risk of bear mortality and the chance that a bear won’t use that habitat any more,” Lamb said.

Bear hunting has been banned in the area for 20 years, but bears avoid humans nonetheless, Lamb said.

“Bears can get into conflict with people who are out recreating for all kinds of reasons. They’re not intending to get into conflict with a bear. But they do, inevitably.”

Even the narrowest trail has a broad effect.

“That little road might only be five metres wide, but its area of influence is much, much more than that. Bears will avoid large areas around roads.”

The study found numbers highest in areas of high-quality habitat where there were no roads at all.

But keep the public off resource roads and grizzlies rebound. Industry use of such roads is sporadic. Public use is regular.

“Closing roads to the public restored bear density in some small areas where this was done,” Lamb said. “We would close those roads to the public and then we would elevate bears back up.”

Densities where public access to roads was closed recovered 27 per cent — “closer to as if those roads weren’t really there.”

Just Posted

Canyon Ski Resort season wraps up Sunday

Central Alberta skiers and snowboarders only have a couple more days to… Continue reading

Future space crunch is feared, as no new schools for Red Deer are in the budget

Only local modernization will be at Father Lacombe Catholic School in Lacombe

A million dollars for Red Deer hospital is not nearly enough, says Mayor Veer

Mayor is concerned Red Deer hospital is still not on province’s five-year capital list

No drug treatment centre, or additional shelter beds for Red Deer

But Red Deer will get more affordable housing and sustained capital funding

Hit and run adjourned to April

Crash into Papa Baldy’s Pizza

WATCH: Hundreds come to Red Deer Rebels Fan Fest

The Red Deer Rebels met with legions of their of fans just… Continue reading

Supreme Court rules former Stephen Harper aide guilty of influence peddling

OTTAWA — Canada’s highest court has upheld an influence peddling conviction against… Continue reading

2 killed, dozen hurt in French supermarket hostage-taking

PARIS — An armed man took hostages in a supermarket in southern… Continue reading

READER PHOTO: Red Deer students celebrate Canadian courage at Juno Beach

Teenagers from Red Deer’s Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School are learning about… Continue reading

UN report: Loss of plants, animals making a lonelier planet

WASHINGTON — New United Nations scientific reports diagnose that Earth is getting… Continue reading

Excavator frees dolphins trapped by pack ice in Newfoundland harbour

HEARTS DELIGHT, N.L. — A pod of dolphins trapped by pack ice… Continue reading

Structure fire destroys home in Mirror

A house in Mirror is completely damaged due to an overnight structure… Continue reading

Trudeau warns senators not to thwart will of Canadians on marijuana bill

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is reminding senators that his government… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month