Elk Valley ecological trap for grizzly bears

Due to an increase in Elk Valley human-wildlife conflicts, the area has become an ecological trap for grizzly bears.

  • Nov. 10, 2016 11:00 a.m.

Located southeast of the Columbia Valley, the Elk Valley has developed into an ecological trap for grizzly bears due to an influx of human-wildlife conflicts in the area, according to PhD candidate at the University of Alberta, Clayton Lamb.

“In the last eight years, we’ve lost 40 per cent of our grizzly bears in that area – that’s not normal,” Lamb said in an interview with Mark Hume of the Globe and Mail last week.

“Provincially, the populations that we’re studying, none of them that we are documenting are showing that type of decline,” he said in an interview with The Echo. “It’s not normal as far as what we have across the landscape right now where we’re studying.”

Lamb is the lead author of a study on grizzly bear populations in the Elk Valley that originated with the province of British Columbia in 2006 with co-authors Garth Mowat and Bruce McLellan of B.C. Ministry of Forests. Lamb joined the team in 2013 as a master’s student.

Lamb said they initially started the study to analyze grizzly bear populations, breaking the Elk Valley into different sections, to study grizzly bear demography and the impact human population has on it.

What they found was that an area that previously had one of the highest grizzly bear densities across North America showed a rapid decline in population due to human activity. His research indicates that 68 per cent of grizzly bear deaths in the area are from non-hunting related incidents such as collisions with vehicles and trains, which account for 54 per cent of grizzly deaths while poaching accounted for only 13 per cent of grizzly mortalities.

Notably, 33 per cent of bear deaths were due to human-bear conflicts such as animals searching for food and were thus shot by ranchers or euthanized by conservation officers. According to Lamb, unlike the mortality rates caused by hunting that can be reversed with the flip of the switch, these human-wildlife conflict rates are harder to control.

While in Elkford Lamb noted a number of mortalities that were all non-hunting related, including conflicts with people due to livestock, pigs, chickens, and a bear being hit by a train.

The Elk Valley provides a suitable habitat for grizzly bear populations thanks to its rich berry crops but when combined with high mortality rates caused by human-wildlife conflict, this can cause other bears from backcountry areas to refill these populations. Although he hasn’t studied the Columbia Valley exclusively, he said he expects to see similar patterns with the human presence so closely intertwined with wildlife such as  bears.

Lamb hopes this study is able to shed light on a previously undocumented area in grizzly bear demography in the future. He notes that if this was happening without monitoring, we wouldn’t have known about it and he is excited that people can monitor these types of populations that could be suffering high mortality rates.

Just Posted

Fernie Family Housing receives much needed funding for affordable housing

BC Housing funds new affordable housing in Fernie

Woman found in Cranbrook park pronounced deceased

Attempts to revive woman in hospital were unsuccessful, police say

Kootenay employers ready to meet job seekers at Black Press career fair

Dozens of companies will attend the event on Nov. 15 at the Ktunaxa Nation Building in Cranbrook

Woman taken to hospital after being found in Cranbrook park

RCMP say she may possibly be suffering from hypothermia

Youth strap on skates in memory of Hugh Twa

On Saturday, November 3, teams from around the Elk Valley and abroad… Continue reading

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Protesters confront Environment Minister in B.C.

Protesters wanting more for killer whales confront Catherine McKenna

Humans reshaping evolutionary history of species around the globe: paper

University of British Columbia researcher had the paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society

Toronto ‘carding’ activist Desmond Cole stopped by police in Vancouver

Cole says his experience reveals what daily life is like for black and Indigenous residents

Commercial trucks banned from left lane of Coquihalla

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation has introduced a new program that hopes to prevent accidents and closures on the Coquihalla Highway.

B.C. on track to record same number of overdose deaths as last year

128 people died of overdoses in September, bringing the total to more than 1,100 so far in 2018

B.C. firefighters rescue horse stuck in mud

‘It happens more often than you’d think,’ says deputy chief

Canadians more prepared for weather disaster than financial one: poll

RBC recommends people check their bank app as often as the weather app

B.C. dog owner sues after pet killed in beaver trap

A Kamloops man is suing the operator of a trapline north of the city after his dog died

Most Read