The number of grizzly bears in southwest Alberta is holding firm, according to new figures released Friday, but a conservation group warns grizzlies "are in real trouble."
A survey by Alberta's Sustainable Resources Department found 51 bears in the southwest corner of the province, from the Montana border to Highway 3, near Crowsnest Pass. That means there are 228 grizzlies from the Montana border all the way north to Highway 16, near Jasper.
Only bears outside the national parks have been counted in the survey, which began in 2004.
Dave Ealey, a spokesman for the province, said the 51 bears found shows stability.
"The density is pretty much comparable to what it was back in 1997," he said. "This suggest to us that at least grizzly bears in that part of the province are relatively stable."
Numbers dangerously low: AWA
Those numbers are still dangerously low, said Nigel Douglas, a spokesman for Alberta Wilderness Association.
"When we thought there was 1,000, that was enough for the scientists to sound the alarm. Now they know there is way, way less than that and grizzlies are in real trouble."
He puts the blame on roads and development too close to bears' habitat.
'The grizzly bear is to Alberta what the lion is to Africa. It's a symbol.'—Harry Chase, Calgary Liberal MLA
"They just don't have the secure habitat to get on with the business of being grizzly bears that they used to have. If we're going to keep grizzly bears in Alberta then we have to do something to address that habitat issue."
Alberta has banned hunting grizzlies for the past two years. Douglas said he wants grizzlies designated an endangered species so that the ban becomes permanent and steps can be taken to protect their habitat.
Calgary Liberal MLA Harry Chase says while conducting the study is a good step, more needs to be done to protect grizzlies, such as not allowing golf courses to be built next to habitat.
"The grizzly bear is to Alberta what the lion is to Africa. It's a symbol," he said.