Parks Canada officials say they're seeing positive results from efforts to protect grizzly bears in the Rockies, but some say protecting bears can be challenging once they cross park boundaries.

Grizzly bears in this ecosystem have the lowest recorded reproductive rates in North America - Parks Canada wildlife ecologist Anne Forshner

Despite all the traffic, trains and visitors, Parks Canada says there were no human-caused grizzly bear deaths in Banff, Kootenay and Yoho National Parks last year — the third year that's happened since 2009.

"We know we have more work to do and that's why we're working on a number of initiatives," says Parks Canada wildlife ecologist Anne Forshner.

That includes research and strategies like highway fencing, area closures and public education, as well as working to lower the mortality rate among female grizzlies.

"We know that the grizzly bears in this ecosystem have the lowest recorded reproductive rates in North America," says Forshner.

'Complex' landscape

Bear researcher Sarah Elmiligi applauds Parks Canada's efforts but says there are still conservation challenges when the bears travel between jurisdictions.

"A bear is just walking around the landscape and could be on public lands, it could be on provincial protected areas or it could be in a national park," said Elmiligi from Canmore.

"It's a complex jurisdictional landscape for them to navigate through, and that's layered on top of just all the regular challenges they face in trying to find enough food and resources to survive and get fat over the summer."

Some bears have been killed after wandering outside park boundaries.

And Elmiligi believes there needs to be a wider conservation strategy to protect grizzlies no matter where they roam.

Based on the last count in 2008, Parks Canada estimates there are about 60 grizzlies in Banff.
With files from the CBC’s Dave Gilson