On Friday, March 3, the Alberta government announced it will suspend the spring grizzly bear hunt while DNA census data is collected throughout the province, which is expected to continue over the next few years. “While we pursue better grizzly bear population estimates, Alberta will take the most precautionary approach possible with the spring hunt,” said Minister of Alberta Sustainable Resource Development Dave Coutts. In addition to suspending the hunt, the government has committed to completing the DNA-based population studies, reducing the number of human-bear conflicts through public education and regulations, and has requested the assistance of several widely-known grizzly experts to provide scientific peer review on the current draft grizzly bear recovery plan.
Population studies released on Friday show that in 2002 there were just 147 grizzlies in west-central Alberta (between Highway 11/David Thompson Highway, the North Saskatchewan River, and Highway 16/Yellowhead Highway, the Athabasca River). In 2004, the census shows there’s only 53 left. These numbers reflect key contributors to grizzly decline: increase in roads and access and degradation of important grizzly habitat.