Grizzly bears are a majestic icon of BC’s wilderness. Yet in the southwest corner of the province, this species is declining at an alarming rate due to habitat loss and human-caused deaths. Grizzly bears are at a crossroad in southwest British Columbia, but we have the opportunity to preserve this species and its habitat before it is too late.
In response to the continuing regional decline of grizzly bears conservation groups from British Columbia and Washington have joined together to launch the Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative.
Grizzly bears are an “umbrella species”- ensuring their survival requires that the health of the ecosystem as a whole is maintained, and by doing so this protects a much broader array of species.
The Coast to Cascade region extends from the South Chilcotin Ranges to the North Cascades in Washington, and includes landscapes adjacent to the communities of Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton, Lillooet, and Hope. This is the most populated part of the province, and grizzlies in this area face a number of pressures, including habitat loss and fragmentation. Wildlife may not need passports to cross national borders, but they do need intact, interconnected habitats.
The biggest threat to the grizzly bear’s survival is loss of habitat due to human activities, including resource extraction, infrastructure development (such as roads), and encroachment of human settlements. These activities also fragment the landscape, isolating small populations and their breeding potential. In Canada, only 7% of the grizzly bears’ range is protected by law.
The cumulative impacts of these various development pressures is compounded by human-related mortality of individual bears. Of the nine threatened grizzly bear populations across BC, five are located in the Coast to Cascades region of southern BC. Although hunting grizzlies is banned in these areas, poaching, defensive shootings, garbage-related conflicts, and vehicle and train collisions continue to pose a threat.
Grizzly bears in southwest BC will remain at risk until conservation measures are made a priority and integrated into land use planning.
There are fewer than 300 known grizzly bears the Coast to Cascade region!
The Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Recovery Initiative is a new collaborative effort between CPAWS-BC and several other groups and First Nations to reverse the decline of grizzly bear populations in southwest BC. We are calling on British Columbia to undertake efforts to restore five grizzly bear populations in southwest BC to healthy numbers by better protecting them from human-caused deaths and further loss and fragmentation of their habitat. A key part of this effort will involve raising public awareness of this species’ current rate of decline, and generate support from local communities to help combat this. Throughout the coming year we will be working with local residents to talk about grizzly bears and the role we can all play.
We seek to generate support for the creation of grizzly recovery strategies and habitat security measures. Securing grizzly bear habitat will also make the landscape more resilient to climate change and will help maintain the ecological integrity of major watersheds in southwest British Columbia.
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