GRIZZLY BEARS AND RANCHING: SUPPORTING COEXISTENCE

Category: 2012, Completed, Grant, Land Use, Major Project

GRANTEE

Waterton Biosphere Reserve Association

Location

About

This project will bring together landowners and researchers to conduct non-invasive DNA-based monitoring of grizzly bears on private agricultural lands in southwestern Alberta.

As part of its Carnivores and Communities program, WBR established a Carnivore Working Group (CWG) in 2011 with support from Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (AESRD). The CWG is composed primarily of producers from Cardston County, and the Municipal Districts of Pincher Creek, Ranchland and Willow Creek and also includes representation from AESRD. The CWG terms of reference outlines an ambitious undertaking including implementation of on-the-ground attractant management projects, development of community-shared goals for reducing human-carnivore conflict, and establishment of a long-term vision including cost-effective program policy or legislative recommendations.

Gaining a solid understanding of both the populations and spatial patterns of grizzly bears in this region has been identified as critical to the success of the CWG. WBR and partners have undertaken several initiatives in the last few years to reduce conflicts with grizzly bears, primarily by reducing bear attractants. However, to determine if these stewardship initiatives are effective, and to inform future initiatives, there is a growing need to understand bear density and space use at a fine scale across the region. In the longer term, a robust monitoring framework is necessary to assess changes to grizzly bear populations and, subsequently, the successes or failures of conservation/management efforts.

Increasing local confidence in grizzly bear population data has also been identified as a priority. This project will build on the Southwest Alberta Grizzly Bear Monitoring Project (GMP) piloted on public lands in 2011 (http://www.srd.alberta.ca/FishWildlife/WildlifeManagement/BearManagement/GrizzlyBearResearch/SouthwestAlbertaGrizzlyMonitoring.aspx) by expanding the study area to include private lands in the agricultural interface.  It will engage landowners directly in the identification of sites frequented by bears and in the collection of data.  This direct engagement will, hopefully, increase local confidence in the data and any subsequently developed grizzly bear management strategies.

Completion of this project will provide a solid basis for management of grizzly bears in this landscape, supported by both wildlife managers and local landowners. This in turn will support the overall aim of the WBR’s Carnivores and Communities program to “decrease conflicts with carnivores, enhance public safety, reduce the economic impact to agricultural producers resulting from sharing their land with large carnivores, work toward improving tolerance towards large carnivores, and ultimately achieve a balance between large carnivore conservation and agriculture in southwestern Alberta.”