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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: March 2020

14 - Reducing Uncertainty in Bear Management


Once globally abundant ranging across Asia, Europe and North America, grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) have been classified as threatened, endangered or vulnerable in most parts of their range (Weilgus 2002). In Canada, the grizzly bear is classified as ‘Special Concern’ by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC 2018); in the contiguous United States, they are listed as ‘Endangered’ under the Endangered Species Act (US Fish and Wildlife Service 2018). From the 1940s to 1960s, habitat loss resulting from expanding human settlements and agriculture (Shelton 2001) combined with increasing negative interactions between people and bears led to the killing of grizzly bears and dramatic decreases in population sizes (McCracken 1957). Habitat loss from industrial land use practices and conflict with people continues to impact grizzly bear populations in Canada (Benn and Herrero 2002; Nielsen et al 2006).

Human use and development, such as roads, communities, industrial development and recreational use, impact grizzly bear habitat both inside and outside of protected areas in western Canada (Nielsen et al 2006; Sorensen et al 2015). Grizzly bears in western Canada exist in a multi-use landscape with home ranges often overlapping federal and provincial management agency jurisdictions (eg federal and provincial protected areas, other public lands, and private land; Bourbonnais et al 2013). Each of these jurisdictions has different management responses to grizzly bear behaviour and habitat use detailed in their respective management plans. Primary human use in each of these jurisdictions is also variable (eg recreation, private land use, and industrial or commercial use). As a result, how people react to grizzly bears and their expectations regarding bear management change across the landscape. Grizzly bears with home ranges overlapping multiple jurisdictions must navigate a complex variety of human uses and potential management responses.

There are many challenges regarding researching grizzly bear habitat use and activity in areas of human use. Their large home ranges can render data collection challenging across varying spatial scales. The diversity of habitats they can occupy across various densities and intensities of human use can make inferences at the population level difficult to defend. They are also complex animals that can make decisions based on complex stimuli and learn over time, which can render robust statistical analyses at the population scale difficult or inappropriate based on the dataset.