Calgary

Spike in human-caused grizzly bear deaths spurs call for immediate action

According to statistics released by the provincial government, there have been 207 grizzly deaths caused by humans since 2008. The deadliest year in that period was 2016, when 29 bears died.

Over the past decade, 207 grizzlies have suffered human-caused deaths

The deadliest year in the past decade for Alberta's grizzlies was 2016, when there were 29 human-cased deaths. (Government of Yukon)

The Alberta Wilderness Association wants immediate action to stop human-caused grizzly bear deaths in the province. 

According to statistics released by the provincial government, there have been 207 grizzly deaths caused by humans since 2008. The highest number in one year during that period was 29. 

"Twenty-nine bears killed in 2016 is an incredibly concerning number. It's way over the average of 19 bears a year," said the association's Joanna Skrajny, a conservation specialist.

"To me, what's also concerning is that three of the last five years have had numbers that are way over that. We had 26 caused-by-people deaths in 2013, 27 in 2014 and 29 in 2016, so it's a worrying trend, for sure."

Skrajny says the numbers are estimates and the actual number of deaths could be much higher.

"For example, for the number of poaching deaths — poachers aren't going to phone in and say 'hello, yes, I have killed a bear, so please mark that down.' So the number could be twice as high, that's generally what researchers such as Gordon Stenhouse have estimated." 

Plan exists

Known poaching incidents — illegal kills — account for 57 of the total deaths. 

Skrajny says there is an action plan in place that was created in 2008 to protect Alberta's grizzlies, but it needs to be implemented. 

A big part of that, she says, is reducing the number of roads in bear habitat and ensuring there aren't as many built going forward. 

She says that would help reduce access for poachers and protect habitat for the grizzlies. 

Ensuring there are fewer roads could involve industries working together. 

"There shouldn't be an oil road right next to a forestry road, right next to another road. We can combine those together and just use one road for all three of those," said Skrajny.