Charges of poaching laid in Alberta grizzly bear death

Two Alberta men face charges in the death of a grizzly bear being tracked by researchers.

Grizzly bear being tracked by researchers shot and killed in Edson area

Just days before he was killed, the grizzly bear was photographed by Hinton veterinarian and wildlife photographer Gary Gulash. (Gary Gulash)

Before he was shot and killed in Edson, Alta., the young male grizzly bear travelled up to 40 kilometres a day looking for the best places to find berries, moose calves and mates, and live out his life.

But on May 26, at about the age of about four or five years old, that life came to a sudden end when he was shot and killed in a province where a ban on grizzly bear hunting has been in place for a decade.

"It's a tragedy," said Hinton veterinarian and wildlife photographer Gary Gulash, one of the last humans to see the grizzly alive on the side of the highway a few days before his death. "I wish all people could appreciate the wildlife that we still have remaining here in this province."

Two men from Edson and Fort McMurray have been charged with unlawful possession of wildlife. One of the men faces additional charges of hunting wildlife during a closed season and providing false information to an officer.
G141 grazed on dandelions and vegetation in late May by the roadside south of Hinton. (Gary Gulash)

Researchers from FRI Research had been tracking the movements of G141, as the bear was known, since he was collared in the spring.

Last month, when his collar stopped transmitting information, officials launched a search and found his carcass in the Edson area.

"It obviously affects our ability to recover grizzly bears in this province," said research scientist Gord Stenhouse.

G141 was one of about 20 bears being tracked by his research team but Stenhouse said a lot of information around his circumstances cannot be shared while the case is before the courts.

​He said G141 was a young adult bear, who had recently become independent.

"At their third year they kind of get kicked out," said Stenhouse. "It's like in humans — we have to go find our own apartment or place to live. In bears, they have to go find their own home range, which is usually outside the mother's home range where they grew up."
The grizzly was one of 20 being tracked by researchers. (Gary Gulash)

Gulash came upon G141 grazing on dandelions and vegetation in a ditch by the road south of Hinton, about 59 kilometres northeast of Jasper.

"I was impressed this bear was in very good body condition and had a really nice coat," said Gulash.

"Some bears are more attractive than others — this was a good-looking bear. He had a really nice pelt and was in prime condition, young and healthy."

He said the animal didn't seem too bothered by the presence of the growing crowd of admirers who expressed concern for his wellbeing near the highway.

"That was a concern — 'I hope he stays out of trouble,'" said Gulash. "And wouldn't you know it, this is unbelievable that his life would be ended so soon. It's a tragedy."

The province designated grizzly bears a threatened species under Alberta's Wildlife Act and hunting was suspended in 2006.

The two men will appear in an Edson courtroom on Aug.16th.

 andrea.huncar@cbc.ca

@andreahuncar