Why grizzly bears?

A grizzly bear crossing a road in bear management area 3

I am often asked this question when the topic of my research comes up in conversation along with “why bother?” and “who cares?”. I get it. Grizzly bears are big, scary, and intimidating. Their claws are sharp, their teeth are sharper, and they are incredibly fast and strong. They are territorial and known for aggressively defending their young. And we have all seen The Revenant where Leonardo DiCaprio gets ripped apart by a mother bear defending her cubs. They are the ultimate predator. We have every right to fear and respect them, and we should. Many people fail to see the value in conservation efforts and believe that any time or money spent supporting grizzly bear populations is a waste. However, they play a vital ecological role. Large predators help to maintain prey populations and are critical for balanced ecosystems. Omnivores, such as grizzly bears, are important for seed dispersal which helps establish vegetation. Further, grizzly bears are considered an “umbrella species”, which means that protecting them indirectly protects multiple other species. Their relatively large home ranges include numerous other species who may benefit from conservation initiatives. As a result, long-term persistence of grizzly bears, as well as other large predators, can serve as an indicator of the impact of land-use practices on wildlife populations over time (Wilkinson et al, 2008).

Sadly, grizzly bears are currently listed as “threatened” under the Alberta Wildlife Act (2010), “vulnerable” by the British Columbia Conservation Data Center (2015), and “special concern” by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (2012). As of 1990, it was reported that within Canada, grizzly bears were extirpated from 24 percent of their former range, and 63 percent of the remaining habitat was considered to be either threatened or vulnerable (Banci, 1991). Historically, the limiting factors for grizzly bear populations were habitat loss due to conversion of natural lands for agriculture and unrestricted hunting, including initiatives for predator control. Today, the primary factor contributing to population reductions are anthropogenic activities, which includes road expansion, habitat modification, and habitat loss (Kansas and Festa-Bianchet, 2010). Grizzly bears are not only sensitive to human caused disturbance, but they are commonly subject to human conflict and poaching.


For me, conservation in general is important as I believe that all wildlife has value; whether it be the species themselves or their habitats. To ensure the longevity of wildlife we must maintain secure habitat. Ecosystems provide critical services to mankind including oxygen production, water filtration, carbon sequestration, recreational benefits, and provide natural resources that help fuel our economy. Moving forward, we must sustainably manage our natural resources so that future generations can benefit from ecosystem services as well.

Wildlife Cameras

Happy as a bear in a berry patch

As part of my research, we set up 40 trail cameras in August 2019 in the southern portion of my study area. The cameras were placed in areas where grizzly bears are to known to occupy historically and have high predicted berry densities. The best part of camera set up was getting to sample wild strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and huckleberries. In the field we picked locations where berries were abundant and that had easy access (although not easy enough as we have learned trying to retrieve them over the winter). This will help to supplement the existing hair snag data to explore the relationship between grizzly bear occupancy and human-caused landscape disturbance, which is prevalent throughout the area.

Camera traps are a great way to monitor wildlife as they can be relatively inexpensive, easy to put up, and its fun to go through the photos given that animals actually triggered the cameras and not just branches and grass blowing in the wind. Bear management area 3 (BMA 3) where the study takes place is home to many species additionally to grizzly bears including lynx, cougars, wolves, black bears, foxes, moose, deer, elk, and skunks. Hopefully I get to see some of these and more importantly, some grizzly bears!

Stay tuned for wildlife photos as I go through the camera cards over the next few months!

Captain Kirk Appreciation Post

My dad is a hunter. Growing up, this was sometimes difficult for me. I would walk into the garage during hunting season and come face-to-

Captain Kirk loading up wildlife cameras with batteries and SD cards.

face with a dead deer or some ducks. I have a vivid memory of opening up a tarp in the box of his pick-up truck, revealing a dead doe with her tongue sticking out the side of her mouth. I was traumatized. For much of my life, I have been a vegetarian and the early years of this dietary preference was largely a result of these run-ins with dead wildlife. At the time, I could not separate the empathy I felt for animals and the need for a protein rich diet. My dad helped me to understand the value in obtaining meat through hunting and fostered an appreciation of the outdoors. Overtime I began to realize that he was not a cruel animal-killing monster, but an honorable role model.

My dad is the most generous, kind-hearted human that I know. He continuously goes out of his way to help out whoever he can. It is no surprise that he jumped at the opportunity to join me to set-up wildlife cameras in Alberta. It was so much fun having my dad come along and begin to understand the work that I do. I am forever grateful for his help during camera set-up as well as the positive influence he has had on my life. Known to many as Captain Kirk to many, my dad is a born leader, somewhat of a comedian, and an amazing father. I am very lucky.


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