For many years, the population of one of Alberta’s most iconic animals – the grizzly bear – was dwindling. In 1990, it was estimated that there were only 790 grizzlies living in Alberta.
It was clear that grizzly bears were struggling in our province, but beyond that, the problem wasn’t well understood. To help the population recover, Alberta needed reliable scientific data on how many grizzlies were left, where they were, and what was causing their decline.
As part of our commitment to supporting forest wildlife, the forest industry stepped up to support initiatives like fRI Research’s Grizzly Bear Program. Through these initiatives, our research partners have uncovered information that’s helped reverse the trend of falling grizzly populations.
Research found that clashes between humans and bears – including poaching, accidental encounters and collisions with vehicles – were the main threats to grizzlies in Alberta. In light of those findings, the forest industry has adapted our practices to help keep these things from happening. The location of access roads in relation to grizzly bear habitat, for example, is carefully planned to minimize the chance of contact between bears and humans.
The research also showed the importance of “edge habitat” – sections of young forest on the border of an established one. The plants that grow in this environment are an important food source for bears, as are other animals that move in to graze in these areas. Through strategic harvesting and regeneration practices, the forest industry can create this kind of grizzly bear habitat where it’s most needed.
In part due to this partnership between researchers and the forest industry, grizzly populations are on the rise in Alberta. Their numbers have increased substantially in many areas, and in some areas, there are now twice as many grizzlies as there were ten years ago. This is a great example of how Alberta has used forest management strategies to help a vital species thrive.