Bears and
Cultural
Connections

Bears and Research
in the Canadian
Rockies

Bears and
Habitat

Bears and
Roads

Bears and
People

Bears and
Science

Bear Paw Print Bear Research Projects Bear Paw Print
Bears and Research in the Canadian Rockies

Because grizzly bears are a species with significant conservation concerns in Canada and North America, and because their population and habitat status are considered to be indicators of the health of ecosystems, there has tended to be greater research effort devoted to grizzly bears than to black bears in the Canadian Rockies. This emphasis on grizzly bears is reflected in the following studies.


Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project

Primary mandate: “to scientifically define the cumulative effects of development on the regional grizzly bear population.”

Study area: Central Rockies Ecosystem; total area ~ 40 000 km2, mostly in Alberta and including the Bow River drainage, north to the Red Deer, south to the Oldman, east as far as grizzlies range, west to the Columbia Trench. Encompasses multiple use, protected, private and federal reserve lands. One of the most highly developed and used areas in North America where grizzlies still survive.

Time frame: 1994-2001; continued monitoring post 2001.

Key research areas/questions: grizzly bear response to human development and activities.  Specific areas of research include:

  • impacts of human development and activity on sub-adult bears
  • relationships between different forest harvest practices and the provision of cover post-harvest
  • habitat quality/quantity/distribution
  • landscape characteristics selected for foraging
  • population characteristics
  • spatial and causal analysis of mortality
  • habitat and population viability analysis

Key contributions to date: 

  • influencing policy and management in Banff National Park (specific grizzly bear related objectives incorporated into 1997 park management plan) and Kananaskis Country
  • multi-jurisdictional, multi-stakeholder project organization has served as a model influencing grizzly bear research and management in other areas

(Source for all information: Herrero and Gibeau 1999)

Flathead Grizzly Bear Study

Primary mandate: to understand the effects of industrial resource extraction on grizzly bears.

Study area: North Fork of the Flathead River drainage in south-eastern British Columbia and adjacent Montana. Total study area is ~ 3 000 km2.  Area has a high density grizzly population, high quality habitat for grizzlies, and no permanent human settlement on the B.C. side of the border.

Time frame:  began ~1978 and is on-going today.

Key research areas/question: effects of industrial resource extraction and associated activities on: 

  • mortality, natality and other demographic characteristics
  • habitat-use and behaviour

    Current research focuses on: 

  • female survival and reproduction
  • dispersal patterns of both sexes

Key contributions to date:  

  • long-term data-sets on demographics, grizzly bear responses to human industrial activities, and dispersal
  • population estimates have provided the basis for the allocation of hunting permits; Flathead research has also contributed in part to riparian buffer protection and access management 

(Source for all information: McLellan 2000)

Foothills Model Forest Grizzly Bear
Research Project

Primary mandate:“to provide managers with the necessary knowledge and tools to ensure the long-term conservation of grizzly bears in west-central Alberta.” 

Study area: 9 000 km2 including land inside and outside of Jasper National Park. Encompasses protected areas and multiple use lands. 

Time frame:  5 year project initiated in 1999.

Key research areas/questions:

  • evaluation of existing cumulative effects assessment models
  • cost-effective census techniques
  • using remote sensing tools to delineate grizzly bear habitat
  • grizzly bear health, reproduction and mortality
  • how bears respond to changing landscape conditions
  • bear response to human activities including forestry, mining, oil and gas exploration and development, recreation and tourism  

Key contributions to date: cooperative effort with industry and government. The project answers questions about the effects of human activities such as roads, cutblocks, seismic lines and recreational activities on bear populations and habitats. Planning tools are being developed that both industry and government can use to better ensure that land use activities have less of an impact on grizzly bears and their habitats.  

(Source for all information: Foothills Model Forest 2000)

West Slopes Bear Research Project

Primary mandate: “to assess population characteristics, habitat use and movements of grizzly and black bears.” 

Study area: 5 000 km2 area in the west slopes of the Canadian Rockies and east slopes of the Columbia Mountains in the vicinity of Golden, British Columbia. About one half of the area is National Park land (Glacier and Yoho), the other half is British Columbia provincial land.  

Time frame: 1994 – 1999  

Key research areas/questions:  

  • bear densities and efficient and accurate methods of measuring density
  • mortality and survival and recruitment rates
  • determination of source/sink populations
  • habitat use
  • movement patterns 
  • impacts of human activities
  • survival/fate of translocated bears

Key contributions to date: 

  • “pioneering work on using DNA from bear hair to fingerprint and monitor individual bears” and to estimate bear populations and distributions
  • quantitative information demonstrating that home ranges of translocated grizzly bears are huge compared to wild bears
  • other significant details regarding the fate of translocated bears

(Source for all information: Woods and McLellan 2000 and Woods et al 1997)

Other Black Bear Research
The following are smaller scale studies on black bears conducted in recent years.

1. Research Subject: permeability of the Trans-Canada Highway to black bear movements.

Study area: Bow River valley of Banff National Park. 

Time frame: sampling periods 1987-88 and 1996-97.
Key findings: 

  • the Trans-Canada Highway is a filter to black bear movements
  • learning to use crossing structures is important for permeabilty

(Source for all information: Serrouya 1999)

2.  Research Subject: effects of transportation corridors on [grizzly and] black bear habitat use patterns. Conducted as part of the West Slopes Bear Research Project.

Study area: 5 000 km2 area in the west slopes of the Canadian Rockies and east slopes of the
Columbia Mountains in the vicinity of Golden, British Columbia.

Time frame: sampling period 1994-97.

Key findings:  

  • black bears used habitats adjacent to transportation corridors greater than expected in the spring
  • the use of rights-of-ways increased black bears’ risk of mortality

(Source for all information: Munro 1999)

Footnotes and Sources Cited

Bears: Year 2000 and Beyond Bears: Imagination and Reality
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