Grizzly bear caught in a wolf trap, freed unharmed near Invermere, October 2016. (B.C. Conservation Officer Service)

Habitat loss greatest threat to B.C. grizzly bears

B.C. NDP government focused on grizzly trophy hunt

Degradation of habitat from forestry, oil and gas development and human settlement is the greatest risk to B.C.’s grizzly bear population, Auditor-General Carole Bellringer says.

While Forests Minister Doug Donaldson has concentrated on ending the grizzly bear trophy hunt and enacting new regulations to enforce it, a new audit of the ministry’s management of the bear population has uncovered more serious problems. Donaldson has announced that the B.C. government will put an end to trophy hunting of grizzlies after this fall’s hunting season.

The forests ministry estimates that about 250 of B.C.’s 15,000 grizzly bears are taken by hunters each year, in a limited-entry lottery hunt open to resident and non-resident hunters. The audit found that from 2006 to 2015, there were 389 bears killed as a result of human-bear conflicts, not related to hunting.

The conflicts are a result of increasing calls about grizzlies to the B.C. Conservation Officer Service. The audit revised its procedures to evaluate conflict and not automatically assume the bear should be destroyed, for example if it has entered someone’s yard to eat fruit left on trees.

“An increase in resource roads – 600,000 kms existing and more added every year – also leads to more human-bear conflict, and ultimately grizzly bear deaths,” Bellringer said.

RELATED: Grizzly bear hunt to end Nov. 30

The conflicts are a result of increasing calls to the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, which has revised its procedures to evaluate conflict and not automatically assume the bear should be destroyed.

“An increase in resource roads – 600,000 kms existing and more added every year – also leads to more human-bear conflict, and ultimately grizzly bear deaths,” Bellringer said.

The province is continuing a public consultation on grizzly hunt regulations until Nov. 2.

VIDEO: Auditor’s findings summarized

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