Alberta grizzlies can be saved: expert

World-renowned bear expert Stephen Herrero says it’s not too late to save Alberta’s threatened grizzly bear population, but the province has to act now.

World-renowned bear expert Stephen Herrero says it’s not too late to save Alberta’s threatened grizzly bear population, but the province has to act now.

“We’re at the point we have to move into that kind of more intensive management or we’re going to continue to lose populations,” said Herrero, a University of Calgary professor and researcher who gave a presentation at Red Deer College on Thursday night.

Alberta only has 500 grizzlies, according to the province’s detailed data, and protecting female bears, who don’t start breeding until they are six or eight years old and wait about five years between litters, could ensure the population grows, he said.

“Ours and other research show very clearly that 97, 98, 99 per cent of grizzly bear mortality in the province is human caused.”

High traffic on Alberta’s highways that run east and west have fragmented the grizzly population in the Rocky Mountain areas, where they are found. Areas could be identified where bears are more productive with high concentrations of females and road density and activities like hunting, recreation, forestry and oil and gas development could be under more focused managed to protect them.

Herrero encouraged Albertans to contact their MLAs to let them know they want bears included in land-use management plans.

“This is the second largest terrestrial carnivore in the world, second only to polar bears. They’re bigger than lions. They’re bigger than tigers. They are certainly a part of the Alberta landscape, the Alberta spirit — the very nature of Alberta.

“I think if we lose them, we lose part of Alberta.”

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com