Grizzly bears in southern Alberta and B.C. are in trouble. A report by the David Suzuki Foundation shows that although healthy populations remain in much of Canada's remote northern wilderness, numbers in the south are declining because of shrinking habitat and death from poaching, animal-control kills and collisions with automobiles and trains.
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The situation is so dire that for a second time in 10 years, the country's expert panel, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), has instructed the federal government to legally list and protect the animal under the Species at Risk Act.
Environment Minister Peter Kent must decide whether to accept that recommendation and legally list the animal, reject listing or kick the issue back to scientists for further study. Let's hope he makes the right decision and finally protects this top predator, which plays such a critical role in ecosystem health.
Grizzly bears have suffered from government indifference and inaction for too long. In the decade since the government was first instructed to legally protect the species, some populations in southern Canada have plummeted in numbers, and at least one, the Garibaldi-Pitt sub-population north of Vancouver, is now extinct.
The David Suzuki Foundation is particularly concerned that several other grizzly bear groups in Western Canada, including south-central B.C., face a similar fate. That's why we're urging Canadians to send a strong message to the government to finally protect this iconic species, including shielding their dwindling habitat from further industrial development and road access that puts the bears at increased risk from legal and illegal hunting.
You can send a letter to Minister Kent to protect grizzlies under federal law here.
The good news is that legal protection for grizzly bears works if bans on hunting are imposed and the animal's habitat is safeguarded from further development and road access. Grizzlies have been legally protected in the U.S. under its Endangered Species Act for many years. The results have been spectacular. From a low of 200 bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem only a few decades ago, grizzlies now number 600 and are increasing by five per cent a year.
Our politicians need to show the same kind of leadership that brought grizzlies back from the brink in the U.S. They must legally protect the animal, so this icon of the Canadian wilderness not only survives, but thrives.