Groups Call for Stronger Measures to Protect Bears
July 6, 2016
Canmore, AB - Following a rash of bear deaths on the Trans-Canada Highway (TCH), including three in a 24-hour period this week, the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) Southern Alberta Chapter are calling on the Alberta government to step up its efforts to protect bears and other wildlife in Alberta.
Three grizzly bears and five black bears have been killed in collisions with vehicles since May, most along the TCH, and one on Hwy 40 in Kananaskis Country.
“The province has the opportunity with its Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan to take meaningful action to protect this threatened species,” says Stephen Legault, Program Director for Alberta, Crown and NWT for Y2Y. “However, the province is proposing to allow an increase in the mortality level for grizzly bears in the Bow Valley. That’s unacceptable. We know it’s hard to manage grizzly bear mortality on the Trans-Canada, but just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.”
“The Bow Valley is already one of the most densely developed places in North America that still maintains a population of grizzly bears,” says Anne-Marie Syslak, Executive Director of CPAWS Southern Alberta. “It’s a vital link between Banff and Kananaskis. If bears can’t move back and forth through the Bow Valley then we risk creating islands where animals are isolated. History has shown that wildlife can’t survive if they are not connected.”
“The wildlife movement corridor between the Wind Valley to the south and the Bow Valley Wildland Park along the Bow River, near Dead Man’s Flats, is becoming increasingly dangerous for bears,” says Legault. He notes that Lac Des Arc, near the mouth of the Bow Valley is another hot spot for collisions between bears and vehicles.
The current debate over development in the hamlet of Dead Man’s Flats, in the MD of Bighorn just east of Canmore, illustrates the dire situation for bears. “The MD wants to build an industrial park at the mouth of the Pigeon Creek wildlife underpass beneath the TCH,” says Legault. “That underpass has proven to reduce wildlife mortality, but we need to make it more effective, not less, in order to reduce bear deaths there. If the MD blocks off that wildlife underpass, we can expect even more bears to die on the highway.”
The groups are calling on the provincial government to take immediate action in order to mitigate the impacts of the TCH on bears:
- Coordinate with the RCMP and the Alberta Sherriff Service to increase enforcement speed limits, and consider reducing speed limits in key hotspots such as Dead Man’s Flats.
- Invest in improvements to the Pigeon Creek underpass to make it more effective for grizzly bears and other wildlife.
- Intervene in the debate over development in Dead Man’s Flats to find a solution to ensure that the Pigeon Creek underpass remains 100% functional.
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