Reduction of human bear interaction needed in B.C.

The Grizzly Bear Foundation is putting forward 19 recommendation to protect the grizzly bear species

One of British Columbia’s largest predators could simply dissipate if steps aren’t taken to minimize the interaction between humans and the grizzly bear. Or so says The Grizzly Bear Foundation, the foundation formed in September 2016 to review the current status and future of the bears.

The Grizzly Bear Foundation’s recent release of their report by the board of inquiry is sparking conversation among groups across the province. The board of inquiry report focuses on threats, human-bear interaction, support for the bear viewing industry, and the future survival of the bears.

The report touches on the spiritual and cultural connection the grizzly bears and the Ktunaxa Nation have, discussing the first Indigenous Supreme Court of Canada freedom of religion case filed by the Ktunaxa Nation.

“The grizzly bear spirit is part of the animal world spirits that we acknowledge and recognize and we have over time a part of our teachings been told that grizzly bear spirit is a very important part of the animal world,” Kathryn Teneese of the Ktunaxa Nation Council told The Echo.

The Grizzly Bear Foundation’s report makes 19 recommendation that are broken down into subcategories of education, conversation, research, recommendations to the federal government, recommendations to the provincial government, and recommendations to B.C.’s local and regional governments. Two of the recommendations outlined in the report are directed at First Nations; the first being to facilitate potential partnerships to secure the status of the bears, the other recommendation being expanding the guardian program to more First Nations Communities.

“Not speaking directly to the foundation’s report or recommendations, ecosystem health and stewardship responsibility is something the Ktunaxa Nation take very seriously. Certainly, as we move forward in terms of the work that we do on an ongoing basis, that if were able to assist with ensuring we do have a healthy population of grizzly bear in the region that we will definitely be full participants,” said Teneese.

The BC Wildlife Federation has come out with a response to The Grizzly Bear Foundation’s report, supporting recommendations in the areas of habitat sustainability, research, education, and funding, but the Federation had reservations due to lack of science behind some of the recommendations.

“The BCWF supports a science-based approach to wildlife management at a landscape level,” said BCWF President Jim Glaicar in a press release. “This isn’t just about grizzly bears, it’s about the way we manage the landscape. And you need funding and science to deal with those complex issues.”

Tenesse stated that habitat protection is obviously important because that means that we’re trying to influence human involvement within the habitat. She suggested that rather than dealing with the species at risk in this case, the grizzly bear the focus should be on human impact.

“I think what we’ve always put forward is that in order to ensure the healthy population of any species that we’re not really able to deal directly with the management of those species, but rather to deal with the human impact on activity around the preservation or protection of any particular species,” said Teneese.

With similar goals to protect the wildlife of B.C., the Wildlife Federation suggested further conversations with the Grizzly Bear Foundation should continue. As for Teneese, she stated our activity today is very much reflective on what legacy we leave behind for future generations.

“I just really want to emphasise the fact that it’s incumbent of all of us that live in the region to ensure the health of any species,” said Teneese.