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Bow Valley grizzly bear relocation highlights wildlife connectivity challenges

Bear 148’s relocation out of the Bow Valley this week highlights the challenging circumstances surrounding the survival of grizzly bears and other wide-ranging species in the mountain ecosystem, according to Y2Y.

July 31, 2017

Bear 148’s relocation out of the Bow Valley this week highlights the challenging circumstances surrounding the survival of grizzly bears and other wide-ranging species in the mountain ecosystem, according to Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y).

Nearly seven years old, bear 148 is a female grizzly born in the Bow Valley who has spent most of her life in Banff National Park, making occasional forays down-valley into the Canmore area.

Earlier in July she was moved out of the valley after a close encounter with a hiker, but was back within a few days.

On Friday, July 28, Province of Alberta Fish and Wildlife officers trapped her for a second time near Canmore, and on Monday she was relocated to Kakwa Wildland Provincial Park, 450 kilometres northwest of the Bow Valley.

“Bear 148’s story highlights the need for close co-operation between government bodies with jurisdiction in the area. She also underscores the need for the province of Alberta to lead a cumulative impacts assessment of all current and future development to ensure wildlife connectivity is maintained through the Bow Valley,” says Stephen Legault, program director with Y2Y.

“We believe Parks Canada and Alberta Environment and Parks field staff worked tirelessly protecting public safety while making a focused effort to keep the breeding-age female grizzly alive,” he says. “Removing 148 from her home range in the Bow Valley emphasizes the real challenge development and the exploding popularity of recreational activities have had on the ability of grizzly bears to survive here.”

According to provincial sources, the mortality rate for relocated bears is estimated to be more than 50 per cent. This is often because they are relocated into the territory of a stronger bear or an area with poor habitat, or because the bear continues to experience conflict with people. Relocated bears also tend to travel more, expending more calories, and entering hibernation without appropriate fat reserves.

Y2Y says bear 148’s struggles are representative of the threats to maintaining wildlife connectivity through the Bow Valley — one of the most densely populated regions in the world that shares the range of grizzly bears.

“Her experiences this summer, whether they involved negotiating hikers, eating berries next to homes, or stopping bike traffic on Legacy Trail, really emphasize our need to better manage cumulative impacts on wildlife living in and moving through this valley,” explains Dr. Hilary Young, Alberta program manager for Y2Y.

Successful coexistence will become an increasing need in mountain towns and situations like this highlight the need for different jurisdictions to work together to live with wildlife without negative outcomes, says Young.

The organization continues to urge the Province to initiate and lead a thorough assessment of cumulative impacts in the Bow Valley before approving major new developments that would expand the footprint of the Town of Canmore, including pending proposals for Silvertip and the Smith Creek area of Three Sisters.

Such an assessment would also help planners at municipal, provincial and federal levels as they consider local recreation and trail proposals and participate in the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan recreation management process.

“Bear 148’s tale is a cautionary one,” says Dr. Young. “She’s just a bear trying to be a bear, but the space she needs is shrinking. In order to keep populations connected and healthy we have to reduce, not increase, the pressure from unchecked recreational use and urban development in the Bow Valley.”

Y2Y plans to write Minister Shannon Phillips to ask the province to expand the mandate of the upcoming sub-regional planning for Kananaskis, the Ghost and the Bow Valley.

This planning is expected to start before the end of 2017, and Y2Y requests the province ensure it provides a cumulative impact assessment of all pressures on wildlife, including recreation, urban development, logging and other industrial activity in the region.

For further comment please contact:

Stephen Legault, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative program director for Crown, Alberta and Northwest Territories, 403-688-2964 |

Hilary Young, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative Alberta program manager, 403-609-2666 ext. 104 |