Update on Banff bear 148:
On Friday we wrote about the high profile controversy surrounding the future of grizzly bear 148. As has now been confirmed by multiple media outlets, the Alberta government has surprisingly decided to trap and relocate the bear to a remote part of the province – not, as we understand it, back into Banff.
This disappointing news appears to contradict the recent announcement by the province that they would share management of the bear (at least temporarily) with the federal government, given that 148 spends 90% of her time in Banff National Park. Parks Canada has yet to comment on her trapping, and relocation, but have continuously stated that they want the grizzly to remain in Banff (she’s a young female who will likely have cubs in the spring or, in other words, is a genetic lynchpin for the ecosystem) and have no issue with her behaviour.
Aside from the unnecessary risk posed to a potentially pregnant bear who will now be dropped into unfamiliar habitat, her second relocation also acts as ‘strike two’ – the third strike being a death sentence. This might make some sense if her behaviour warranted it, but Alberta refuses to give any reason for her relocation other than the fact she’s a ‘problem bear’ – which, according to the media, in this case was eating berries near the town of Canmore.
Bears who act as bears and live in bear habitat shouldn’t be moved simply because we encroached on their habitat or are an inconvenience to a particular jurisdiction. Doubtless, there is more to this story that is still unfolding, but at the least, this situation has not been handled as well as it could or should – and for that, our government in Alberta needs to reflect on its one-size-fits-all approach to wildlife management. It also underscores that protected areas are not large enough to house the species they seek to save and unless different levels of government work together to find innovative ways of helping animals like grizzly 148 not just survive, but thrive, biodiversity in this country will continue to be threatened.
We urge you to read over our recommendations for action that we outlined on Friday (community centred conservation strategies, mandatory bear spray – along with a reallocation of conservation officer time – and better individual accountability in bear country) and, if you agree, make your voice heard. How? Write letters and make phone calls to the Alberta Minister of Environment, Shannon Phillips (780)427-2391. Petitions don’t have the same level of impact as personal letters or calls.
Ultimately it’s going to be up to all of us – including the Alberta government – to demand better of ourselves if we’re to create a better balance between the needs of people and nature.