Category Archives: Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project

ESGB Final Report

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To view or download the complete report click the link Final Report of the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project (276 pages; PDF file, 14.7 MB).

You also have the option of viewing or downloading individual chapters and sections (see table below). Click on the PDF icon to the right of the title to open each PDF file.
(To view or download PDF files, you need Acrobat Reader. You can download it free from the Adobe website: http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html)

Suggested means of citing this document
Herrero, Stephen (editor). 2005. Biology, demography, ecology and management of
grizzly bears in and around Banff National Park and Kananaskis Country: The final report of the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project. Faculty of Environmental Design, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Suggested means of citing chapters or sections of this document
S. Stevens, and M. Gibeau. 2005. Research methods regarding capture, handling
and telemetry. Pages 17-19 in S. Herrero, editor. Biology, demography, ecology and management of grizzly bears in and around Banff National Park and Kananaskis Country: The final report of the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project. Faculty of Environmental Design, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Note: some large chapters have been divided to keep file size manageable for downloading.

Chapter

Title

Pages

File Size
Front Cover, How to
Cite, Title
Page,
Dedication, Supporters, Contributors, Preface

8 288 KB
Abstract (Summary) 12 117 KB
Table of Contents +
List of Figures and Tables
7 89 KB
Chapter 1 The Eastern Slopes
Grizzly Bear Project and science-based Grizzly Bear Conservation
10 429 KB
Chapter 2 Study Areas 6 579 KB
Chapter 3 Research Methods
regarding Capture, Handling and Telemetry
3 152 KB
Chapter 4 Grizzly Bear Capture
Success and Morphology
4 140 KB
Chapter 5 Population Characteristics

Section 1 Grizzly Bear Demographics in and around Banff
National Park and Kananaskis Country, Alberta

Section 2 Grizzly Bear Demographics in and around Banff
National Park and Kananaskis Country — Postscript for 2003-2004

Section 3 Grizzly Bear Population Density Estimates within
the Central Rockies Ecosystem

Section 4 The Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project’s
Population Viability Assessment for the Central Rockies Ecosystem

32 633 KB
Chapter 6 Additional Grizzly Bear Mortality Analyses

Section 1 Introduction

Section 2 Mortality of Grizzly Bears in the Bow River
Watershed

Section 3 Grizzly Bear Mortality and Human Access in Banff
and Yoho National Parks, 1972-98

16 443 KB
Chapter 6
(cont.)
Additional Grizzly Bear Mortality Analyses (cont.)

Section 4 Grizzly Bear Mortality and Human Access in the
Central Rockies Ecosystem of Alberta and British Columbia,
1972/1976-2002

22 800 KB
Chapter 6
(cont.)
Additional Grizzly Bear Mortality Analyses (cont.)

Section 5 Modelling the spatial Distribution of human-caused
Grizzly Bear Mortalities in the Central Rockies Ecosystem of Canada

16 560 KB
Chapter 6
(cont.)
Additional Grizzly Bear Mortality Analyses (cont.)

Section 6 Spatial and temporal Analysis of human-caused
Grizzly Bear Mortalities and their Density in the Central Rockies
Ecosystem, 1972/78-2002

14 1.6 MB
Chapter 7 East Slopes Grizzly
Bear Fragmentation based on genetic Analyses
8 494 KB
Chapter 8 Nutritional and hormonal Status of some
Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project Bears and possible Links to low
reproductive Output

Section 1 Nutritional and Hormonal Status of some Eastern
Slopes Grizzly Bear Project Bears and possible Links to low
reproductive Output

Section 2 Study Area and Trapping Location

Section 3 Comparison of select Health Data between the
Eastern Slopes (ESGBP) and the Foothills Model Forest Grizzly Bear
Projects (FMFGBP)

Section 4 Diet of some Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project
Bears as determined using stable Isotope Analysis

10 165 KB
Chapter 9 Home Range Analysis 10 1.8 MB
Chapter
10
Resource Selection by Female Grizzly Bears

Section 1 Context to Resource Selection Models for female
Grizzly Bears in the Eastern Slopes based on coarse-filter and
fine-filter approaches

Section 2 Greenness and Security for female Grizzly Bears

8 1.7 MB
Chapter
10 (cont.)
Resource Selection by Female Grizzly Bears (cont.)

Section 3 Resource Selection by female Grizzly Bears with
Consideration to heterogeneous Landscape Pattern and Scale

Section 4 Comparison of Results regarding Resource Selection
Models for female Grizzly Bears in the Eastern Slopes based on
coarse-filter and fine-filter Approaches

20 800 KB
Chapter
11
Grizzly Bear Response
to Human Use
12 266 KB
Chapter
12
Habitat Effectiveness
and Security Area Analysis
7 487 KB
Chapter
13
Implications of
historical, current, and likely future Trajectories of human
Landuses and Population Growth to Grizzly Bears in the Alberta
Portion of the CRE
22 2.7 MB
Chapter
14
Denning 3 196 KB
Chapter
15
Management
Recommendations: Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project Final Report
16 307 KB
Publications,
Afterword, Appendices, Image Credits
6 54 KB

List of Papers and Publications

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hab_rsrchTheses

Benn, Bryon. 1998. Grizzly bear mortality in the Central Rockies Ecosystem, Canada. Master’s Degree Project, EVDS, University of Calgary.

Donelon, Steve. 2004. The Influence of Human Use on Fine Scale, Spatial and Temporal Patterns of Grizzly Bears in the Bow Valley of Alberta. Master’s Degree, Environment and Management, Royal Roads University, Victoria, B.C.

Gibeau, Michael L. 2000. A Conservation Biology Approach to Management of Grizzly Bears in Banff National Park, Alberta. Ph.D. Dissertation. Resources and the Environment Program, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta.

Mueller, Cedar M. 2001. Distribution of Subadult and Adult Grizzly Bears in Relation to Human Development and Human Activity in the Bow River Watershed, Alberta. Master’s Degree Project, Resources and the Environment Program, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta.

Stevens, Saundi. 2002. Landsat TM-based Greenness as a Surrogate for Grizzly Bear Habitat Quality in the Central Rockies Ecosystem. Canada. Master’s Degree Project, Resources and the Environment Program, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta.

Kansas, John L. 2003. Effects of Mapping Scale, Disturbance Coefficients and Season on Grizzly Bear Habitat Effectiveness Models in Kananaskis Country, Alberta. Master’s Degree Project, Resources and the Environment Program, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta.

Reports

Herrero, Stephen, Michael L. Gibeau, Saundi Stevens, and Bryon Benn. 2003. Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project (ESGBP): Brief Update, April 2003. University of Calgary, Calgary; Banff National Park, Lake Louise; University of Calgary, Calgary; AXYS Consulting, Calgary.

Gibeau, Michael L. and Saundi Stevens. 2003. Grizzly Bear Monitoring in the Bow River Watershed: A Progress Report for 2002. Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project; Parks Canada, Lake Louise, Alberta; Artemis Wildlife Research, Canmore, Alberta.

Gibeau, Michael L. and Stephen Herrero. 2001. Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project: A Progress Report for 2000 (ESGBP): April 2001. Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, and Parks Canada, Banff National Park, Banff, Alberta.

Herrero, Stephen. 2001. A Brief Summary of the Status of the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project (ESGBP). Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta.

Herrero, S., P.S. Miller, and U.S. Seal (eds.). 2000. Population and Habitat Viability Assessment for the Grizzly Bear of the Central Rockies Ecosystem (Ursus arctos). Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada and Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, Apple Valley, Minnesota, USA.

Jalkotzy, M.G., R.R. Riddell, and J. Wierzchowski. 1999. Grizzly bears, habitat, and humans in the Skoki, Baker, South Pipestone, and Lake Louise bear management units, Banff National Park. Prepared for Parks Canada and The Skiing Louise Group. Arc Wildlife Services Ltd., Riddell Environmental Research Ltd., and Geomar Consulting Ltd. 101 pp.

Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project. 1998. Grizzly Bear Population and Habitat Status in Kananaskis Country, Alberta: A Report to the Department of Environmental Protection, Natural Resources Service, Alberta. Prepared by the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta.

Gibeau, Michael L., Stephen Herrero, John L. Kansas, and Bryon Benn. 1996. Grizzly bear population and habitat status in Banff National Park. A report to the Banff Bow Valley Study Task Force. By the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project. 62 pp.

Gibeau, Michael L. and Stephen Herrero. 1995-1999. Eastern slopes grizzly bear project: A progress report for 1994,5,6,7,8 (five separate documents). Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta.

Herrero, S. and M. Gibeau. 1999. Status of the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project (ESGBP): May 1999. Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.

Kansas, John and Chuck Newyar. 1998. Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project: Habitat mapping and evaluation component. Progress report 1994-1997. Prepared for Alberta Conservation Association by ESGBP, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta.

Papers

Benn, Bryon and Stephen Herrero. 2000. Grizzly Bear Mortality and Human Access in Banff and Yoho National Parks, 1971-98. Accepted by Ursus

Garshelis, David L., Michael L. Gibeau and Stephen Herrero. 2005. Grizzly bear demographics in and around Banff National Park and Kananaskis Country, Alberta. Journal of Wildlife Management 69:277–297.

Gibeau, Michael. 1998. Grizzly bear habitat effectiveness model for Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks. Ursus 10:235-241

Gibeau, Michael L. Implications of preliminary genetic findings for grizzly bear conservation in the Central Canadian Rockies. Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.

Gibeau, Michael L., Stephen Herrero, Bruce N. McLellan and John G. Woods. 2001. Managing for grizzly bear security areas in Banff National Park and the Central Canadian Rocky Mountains. Ursus 12:121-130

Gibeau, Michael L. and Stephen Herrero. 1998. Roads, rails and grizzly bears in the Bow River Valley, Alberta. Pages 104-108 in G.L. Evink (editor), Proceedings International Conference on Ecology and Transportation, Florida, Department of Transportation, Talahassee, Florida. USA.

Gibeau, Michael L. and Karsten Heuer. 1996. Effects of transportation corridors on large carnivores in the Bow River Valley. In: Evink, G.L. et al. eds. Proceedings of the transportation related wildlife mortality seminar. State of Florida Department of Transportation, Environmental Management Office, Tallahassee.

Herrero, Stephen. 1994 The Canadian National Parks and grizzly bear ecosystems: The need for interagency management. Int. Conf. Bear Res. and Manage. 9(1):7-21.

Herrero, Stephen, David Poll, Mike Gibeau, John Kansas, and Barry Worbets. 1998. The eastern slopes grizzly bear project: Origins, organization and direction. Conference Proceedings of Canadian Council on Ecological Areas (CCEA).

Herrero, Stephen, Jillian Roulet, and Michael L. Gibeau. 1998. Banff National Park: Science and policy in grizzly bear management. 11th Int. Conf. Bear Res. and Manage. In Press.

Nielsen, Scott E., Stephen Herrero, Mark S. Boyce, Richard D. Mace, Bryon Benn, Michael L. Gibeau and Scott Jevons. 2004. Modelling the spatial distribution of human caused grizzly bear mortalities in the Central Rockies Ecosystem of Canada. Biological Conservation 120:101–113.

Main Messages from “Staying Safe in Bear Country” Video

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Part 1: Bear’s Characteristics, Behaviour and Society

MIND OF BEARS
Bears are intelligent
Curious
Individuals
A lot more predictable than most think

PHYSICAL TRAITS
Amazing noses, and ears and eyes are good
Strong, fast, good swimmers
Black bears great at tree climbing, but grizzlies not bad

BLACK VS GRIZZLY BEARS
Grizzly distribution more limited but locally can be the most abundant
Grizzlies more likely to attack when threatened
Black bears rarely attack defensively
Grizzlies more dangerous than blacks, but risks from either much less than people tend to fear
Humans more tolerant of black bears

BEAR SOCIETY
Flexible social structure that allows them to function at low densities or at concentrated food sources with reduced chance of injury

They do fight but more often use avoidance, restraint and posturing to prevent injury

THREE MAJOR ASPECTS OF BEAR SOCIETY
Body language and vocalizations to communicate with each other
Dominance hierarchy or pecking order
Personal space

BEARS’ MOTIVATIONS:
Bears have varying motivations for what they do

Food and the search for it dominate a bear’s life
Mating and raising offspring
Investigating novel stimuli; curiosity
Establishing and asserting dominance

From a safety standpoint it’s important to understand the difference between “defensive” and other motivations, especially ones that might lead to “predatory” attack

Also critical is understanding the psychology of bears as they grow up. There’s a big difference in the mentality of a recently weaned 2 to 4 year old bear versus an adult female with cubs or an adult male

Part 2: Bear-Human Interactions

Most bears have previous experience around people and learn from each interaction

Humans usually don’t even know they came close to a bear, BEARS USUALLY AVOID PEOPLE

Two major categories of Bear-Human interactions where bears don’t avoid or even approach people: Defensive and Non-defensive

DEFENSIVE INTERACTIONS:
Bear thinks you are a threat to itself, its cubs or its food cache
Usually you approached it, and entered into its personal space, surprising or crowding it
Most likely will appear agitated and stressed
Closer you are too it before it becomes aware of you, more likely it is to react defensively
Almost always stop short of contact, fight/flight is triggered
Defensive response that results in an attack (physical contact) almost always involve grizzly bears surprised at close range, on a carcass or protecting young. The few defensive attacks by black bears have been females protecting cubs (but these are very rare).

NON-DEFENSIVE INTERACTIONS:
A number of different non-defensive motivations that may appear similar to each other

Curious bear
Human-habituated bear
Food-conditioned bear
Dominance-testing bear
Predatory bear

AVOIDING BEAR ENCOUNTERS OR REACTING DURING ONE

AVOID BEARS WHENEVER POSSIBLE

LET BEAR YOU CANNOT AVOID KNOW YOU’RE HUMAN by talking and slowly waving your arms. Try to give the bear your scent

AVOID BEARS THAT ARE AWARE OF YOU AND UNCONCERNED

NEVER APPROACH A BEAR

LEAVE AREA YOU ENCOUNTERED A BEAR

IF YOU HEAR VOCALIZATIONS OR SEE UNATTENDED CUBS…
be extremely cautious and leave the area silently the way you came.

Review of your response during bear encounters:

  • Identify yourself as human to bears you cannot avoid by talking and slowly waving your arms. Try to give the bear your scent.
  • Increase your distance from the bear, even if it appears unconcerned.
  • Do not run, it could invite pursuit.

If a bear approaches you:

  • Stand your ground!
  • Quickly assess the situation. Is the bear behaving defensively or in some other way?
  • Remain calm, attacks are rare.
  • Do not run unless you’re absolutely sure of reaching safety.
  • Group together. Prepare your deterrent

If the bear is approaching in a defensive manner:

  • Stand your ground. Try to appear non-threatening.
  • Don’t shout at the bear. Talk to the bear in a calm voice.
  • If the bear stops its approach, increase your distance.
  • If the bear resumes its approach, stand your ground, keep talking calmly, and prepare to use your deterrent.
  • If the bear cannot be deterred and is intent on attack, fall to the ground as close to contact as possible and play dead.
  • When the attack stops, remain still and wait for the bear to leave. If an attack is prolonged or the bear starts eating you, it is no longer being defensive.

If the bear approaches in a non-defensive manner:

  • Talk to the bear in a firm voice.
  • Try to move away from the bear’s travel path, that may be all it wants you to do.
  • If the bear follows you with it’s attention directed at you. Stop! Stand your ground and prepare to use your deterrent.
  • Act aggressively toward the bear. Let the bear know you will fight if attacked. Shout! Make yourself look as big as possible. Stamp your feet as you take a step or two toward the bear. Threaten the bear with whatever is at hand. A bear that is initially curious or testing you may become predatory if you do not stand up to it. The more the bear persists, the more aggressive your response should be.
  • If the bear attacks, use your deterrent and fight for your life. Kick, punch or hit the bear with whatever weapon is available. Concentrate your attack on the face, eyes and nose. Fight any bear that attacks you in your building or tent.

Remember:

  • If an attack (physical contact is made) is defensive… Play dead. (Don’t play dead before you have used all possible means, such as deterrents to prevent an attack)
  • If the attack is predatory… Fight back.

HELPING SOMEONE BEING ATTACKED
You may be able to drive away an attacking bear from someone else but if you do this you risk drawing the attack to yourself.

Part 3: Deterrents and Preventing Problems

DETERRENTS

BEAR SPRAY
Used to deter bears at close range.
Not 100% effective or a substitute for avoiding an encounter.
Use only approved bear sprays
Carry it ready to use and keep it handy in your tent at night.
Exercise caution

FIREARMS
Make sure it’s adequate
Practice
Mentally rehearse the situations where you would use it

DETERRENTS IN GENERAL
Know their capabilities and limitations
Can be useful but should not give you a false sense of security.
Training and practice are essential.
Observe regulations governing their transport and use.
Consult with local authorities

PREVENTING BEAR PROBLEMS

Most of bear safety is prevention.

LEARN ABOUT BEARS

AVOID ENCOUNTERS
Move away undetected from bears that are unaware of you or distant.

STAY ALERT
Be aware of your surroundings.
Look for signs of recent bear activity.

DON’T SURPRISE BEARS
Warn bears of your presence.

TRAVEL IN GROUP
Groups are noisier and easier to detect and several people are more intimidating to a bear .

KEEP CHILDREN CLOSE

DOGS
Keep it on a leash or leave it at home. Exception is a specially trained dog. Most are not.

CHOOSE CAMPSITES CAREFULLY
Don’t camp on bear travel routes
Use local knowledge of bears and recommended camping practices.

DON’T ATTRACT BEARS OR REWARD THEM WITH FOOD
Keep a clean camp free of attractants.

OTHER DETECTION/DETERRENT OPTIONS
Trip wires, motion detectors and compact electric fences can be useful

FIRST AID
Be proficient in first aid
Carry sufficient medical supplies.

COMMUNICATION
Inform others of your plans
Communication can save lives.

Prepared by members of the Safety in Bear Country Society
To order this video, return to “Ordering Information” on the Bear Safety page.

Grizzly Bear Population and Habitat Status in Banff National Park (1996)


Note: The Executive Summary of this report is displayed below. You also have the option of downloading a PDF version of the Executive Summary.

Gibeau, Michael L., Stephen Herrero, John L. Kansas, and Bryon Benn. 1996. Grizzly bear population and habitat status in Banff National Park. A report to the Banff Bow Valley Study Task Force. By the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project. 62 pp.

— EXECUTIVE SUMMARY —

Our results demonstrate that grizzly bear population and habitat in the Banff Bow Valley, Banff National Park, and the Central Rockies Ecosystem have been seriously stressed by the combined effects of human development and activities. The situation is urgent, especially for Banff Park which is designated as a protected area. We present a series of conclusions and recommendations to address the problem.

The status of the grizzly bear population and habitat are excellent indicators of ecological integrity in the Banff Bow Valley and the significantly larger regional ecosystem, the Central Rockies, upon which grizzly bears depend. By maintaining a healthy grizzly bear population we suggest that most other elements and processes of terrestrial ecosystems will also be maintained.

The grizzly bear is an excellent indicator species for ecological integrity because of certain biological traits. In the Central Rockies Ecosystem they have few young (on average about .5 cub per year during their reproductive years). They range over large areas (for males, home ranges may exceed 2000 km2), and they occur at low population densities (estimated at 1/62.5-101.6 km2). Furthermore, they are prone to direct conflict with people. The combination of these biological traits interacting with people’s proclivity to develop and use grizzly bear habitat usually results in compromised grizzly bear populations and habitat. As omnivores and apex predators, grizzly bears are one of the first species to be lost from an area as a result of land development activities. If grizzly bear populations are healthy then human impacts are being well managed.

In places where human development and activities are prevalent, such as Banff Park and surroundings, Yellowstone Park, or the Provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, the majority of adult grizzly bear deaths are caused by people. We review the history of grizzly bear population declines that have resulted from human-induced mortality and habitat impacts in Banff Park, the Province of Alberta, and the contiguous United States.

To understand the current status of the grizzly bear population and habitat in the Banff Bow Valley, Banff Park, and the Central Rockies Ecosystem we used four different research approaches. Our first area of research involved analyzing the Banff Park grizzly bear mortality and translocation data bases for the period of 1971 to 1995. The other research approaches applied three modeling techniques, including habitat effectiveness, core area analysis, and linkage zone prediction.

Analysis of the mortality database show a minimum of seventy-three recorded mortalities and removals for Banff Park from 1971 to 1995. The average annual number of mortalities/removals for this period was exceptionally high (2.92/year or 4.87 – 3.65% of the population based on a population estimate of 60 or 80 bears). The Province of Alberta has established a harvest target of 2% of an area’s grizzly bear population estimate and currently manages the population to keep total mortality at roughly 4% to allow for population growth (Nagy and Gunson 1990). Based on a Banff Park population estimate of 60 or 80, this would allow an average annual mortality/removal rate of 1.2 – 1.6/year. Five year average annual mortality/removal numbers varied from a low of 1.6/year to a high of 6.2/year. A decreasing trend in mortalities was exhibited from 1981 to present. This may have been partly due to improved garbage management. Given the grizzly bears’ low reproductive capability, it may also have been the manifestation of a significant decline in the local bear population following high annual mortality prior to this period.

Knight and Eberhardt (1985) reported that the death of 1 or 2 adult females could have significant, negative population consequences for Yellowstone grizzlies. In Banff National Park the female cohort accounted for 56% (24 of 43) of all known mortalities/removals since 1971, and 88% (16 of 18) of mortalities/removals since 1983. This is the highest female mortality/removal rate for a 10+ year period reported for any grizzly bear population.

Mortality type analysis revealed that problem wildlife control actions accounted for 71% of grizzly bear mortalities, followed by highway and railway kills (17%), unknown (8%), and natural death (3%). Over 90% of grizzly bear mortalities in Banff Park occurred in frontcountry areas, within a 500m zone surrounding roads and human infrastructure.

Habitat effectiveness modeling is the major component of cumulative effects analysis developed to quantitatively and qualitatively assess the effects of human actions on grizzly bears and their habitat. Results indicate a significant portion of the landscape is only moderately productive habitat. The disturbance component of the model suggests wide spread habitat alienation in Banff National Park, an area considered core refugia for grizzly bears in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Over all, the model suggests that the ability of the landscape to support bears has been significantly reduced.

There is a strong case for preserving areas were grizzly bears will be secure from encounters with humans; where bears can meet their energetic requirements while at the same time choosing to avoid people. Such core security areas would foster the wary behavior in grizzly bears that most managers consider desirable. Core area analysis uses GIS technology to identify areas that are functional at the scale of individual foraging bouts for adult female bears. Results of this analysis showed a progressive apparent loss of security areas starting with 1950, through the present, and into the future depicting an ever increasing deterioration of habitat within Banff Park. Fragmentation and insularization of core habitat within the Banff Park landscape are evident as well as a loss in the ability to foster wary behavior in grizzly bears.

Linkage zones combine landscape structural factors that allow wildlife to move through and live in areas impacted by human actions. This technique assesses the degree of habitat fragmentation caused by the cumulative effects of human actions in an area. A linkage zone prediction model was developed in the U.S. to identify and quantify these areas of potential carnivore crossing and use in mountain valleys. Results depict a dramatic decrease in potential crossing areas over time. Fencing of the Trans Canada Highway has had a significant effect on the ability of grizzly bears to move across the Bow River Valley. Four years of research indicate that no female bears have crossed the fenced sections of the highway (5300 telemetry relocations). The implications of such a barrier on both grizzly bear genetics and demographics are unknown. Fenced sections of the Trans Canada Highway could have profound effects on grizzly bear passage across the Bow River Valley and ultimately movement throughout the Central Canadian Rocky Mountains.

The results from our four research approaches, combined with data from ongoing research efforts by the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Research Project, and the results of decades of published research on grizzly bear ecology throughout North America, allowed us to reach conclusions and to make recommendations regarding grizzly bear management.

Conclusion one: The population status of grizzly bears in the Central Rockies Ecosystem is not scientifically known. However, available evidence suggests a stressed population.

Recommendation 1: Implement an interagency mortality/removal monitoring system for the Central Rockies Ecosystem which brings together data from Parks Canada, and the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia.

Recommendation 2: Average annual mortality/removal of grizzly bears for Banff Park, calculated as three year running averages, should not exceed 1% of the current population estimate. Mortalities/removals of females must be less than males.

Recommendation 3: Parks Canada should request that B.C. and Alberta establish a temporary no hunting zone for grizzly bears surrounding Banff Park. This zone would remain until population recovery or viability is scientifically demonstrated.

Recommendation 4: Continue the demographic studies currently being carried out by the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Research Project until sufficient data are available for scientifically valid population trend and number estimates. This will take between five to ten years of field research to collect. These data will be essential for determining annual allowable mortality/removals in the Central Rockies Ecosystem.

Recommendation 5: Because of documented population stresses, management of grizzly bears in Banff Park must become conservative. The burden of proof regarding the potential impacts of development should require the proponent to prove there would be no significant local or cumulative effect on grizzly bears.

Conclusion two: The grizzly bear population in the Central Rockies Ecosystem moves freely across jurisdictional boundaries. Habitat and mortality/removals must be managed regionally for effective grizzly bear management.

Recommendation 6: Establish an interagency, multi-stakeholder group with significant responsibilities for regional grizzly bear management.

Conclusion three: Management of grizzly bear-human conflict needs to be dealt with more proactively to prevent the need for management removal of bears from the system.

Recommendation 7: Establish a knowledgeable Bear Management Team in order to bring grizzly bear removals from Banff Park to acceptable levels, and to provide for high standards of human safety.

Conclusion four: Habitat effectiveness for grizzly bears in Banff National Park is unacceptably low.

Recommendation 8: Prepare access and development management plans for each of the Banff Park Bear Management Units (BMUs). The objective of the plans would be to increase habitat effectiveness for grizzly bears.

Recommendation 9: Banff Park should continue to support research by the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Research Project aimed at empirically determining disturbance coefficients specific to the Central Canadian Rockies Ecosystem.

Conclusion five: Grizzly bear habitat units (core security areas) are becoming increasingly smaller. This habitat fragmentation is resulting in apparent functional loss of habitat, and possible genetic isolation as a result of developments and human activities.

Conclusion six: The Trans-Canada Highway appears to be a significant barrier for grizzly bear movement, thus causing habitat fragmentation.

Recommendation 10: Ensure effective, multiple crossings for grizzly bears, especially in divided and fenced sections of the Trans Canada highway, to reduce habitat fragmentation effects. The implementation of recommendation 8 would also aid in addressing the problem of habitat fragmentation identified by the core security area analysis.

Conclusion seven: Habitat quality for grizzly bears appears to have declined significantly during the past approximately 60 years.

Recommendation 11: Restore fire to its historic, natural regime in all possible portions of Banff Park. Fire has been nearly eliminated from its natural role in the landscape for the past 60 years, and grizzly bears are adapted in the Central Rockies Ecosystem to forage in high quality, post-fire environments.

Conclusion eight: Significant, direct loss of Bow Valley, montane ecoregion habitat has occurred.

Recommendation 12: Further development should not be allowed in the montane ecoregion beyond that necessary for Trans-Canada Highway redevelopment. De-development should be considered for all non-essential developed areas. This could reclaim some lost montane habitat and would address other habitat related issues such as habitat alienation.

Complete discussions and elaboration of recommendations flowing from these conclusions are found in the final section of this paper.

Grizzly Bear Population and Habitat Status in Kananaskis Country, Alberta (1998)


Note: The Summary, and the Executive Summary of this report are displayed below. You also have the option of downloading a PDF version of the Executive Summary.

Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project. 1998. Grizzly Bear Population and Habitat Status in Kananaskis Country, Alberta: A Report to the Department of Environmental Protection, Natural Resources Service, Alberta. Prepared by the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project , University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta.

— SUMMARY —

This report and interpretation of the Project’s research focuses on grizzly bears in Kananaskis Country, Alberta and surround. It was prepared by the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project team at the request of Alberta Environmental Protection, Natural Resources Service as part of their Kananaskis Country Recreation Policy Review.

Our report was based on preliminary interpretation of on-going research (for which we will complete stage one in the year 2000). This interpretation included an assessment of grizzly bear mortality in the area, as well as habitat, movements and security. Some of our research presents the results of models developed by ourselves, and in the United States, to understand the effects of human activities and developments on grizzly bears. We have developed a habitat suitability model to represent the food value or quality (suitability) of a given area. Two models from the United States, the Cumulative Effects Model and Security Area Analysis, help us to understand human influences on habitat use and movements.

Recommendations for grizzly bear management and research in the Kananaskis Country region were developed based on the interpretation of the research.

— EXECUTIVE SUMMARY —

Alberta’s grizzly bear population has decreased from a pre-European time estimate of 6000 to a current estimate of about 800. Grizzly bears are nationally classified as vulnerable, and within Alberta as a species at risk (blue listed). Responding to concerns for the status and future of grizzly bears in Kananaskis Country, Banff National Park and surround, the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project began in 1994. Its primary mandate is to provide scientific data and understanding regarding the grizzly bear population and its habitat. Because this is one of the most developed and used places in North America where grizzly bears survive, particular emphasis is being placed on understanding the cumulative effects on grizzly bears of developments and people’s activities throughout the region. The Project is funded and guided by a Steering Committee which has representatives from most of the major stakeholder groups active in the Project area. Stakeholders include representatives from the federal and provincial governments, businesses, university and environmental groups. Four years of research have been completed, supported by an average annual budget of $350,000. Research has been carried out primarily as a series of Master’s and Ph.D. research projects at the University of Calgary with cooperation from involved agencies, institutions and individuals.

This report and interpretation of the Project’s research focuses on grizzly bears in Kananaskis Country and surround. It has been prepared by the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project team at the request of Alberta Environmental Protection, Natural Resources Service as part of their Kananaskis Country Recreation Policy Review. Our report on grizzly bear population and habitat status is based on preliminary interpretation of on-going research for which we will complete stage one in the year 2000. Many biological and behavioural characteristics of grizzly bears require long term study for acceptable levels of scientific understanding.

As part of our research we have trapped grizzly bears in the Bow River Watershed and have maintained radio-transmitters on approximately 25 grizzly bears a year. We regularly monitored these animals from air and ground to determine home ranges, movements, survivorship, habitat use and relationships with people’s developments and activities. In parallel with radio-telemetry efforts we have classified habitat and its use by employing remote sensing, field analyses of landscape units, and mapping using Geographical Information System (GIS) technology. Some of our research presents the results of models developed by ourselves, and in the United States, to understand the effects of human activities and developments on grizzly bears. We have developed a habitat suitability model to represent the food value or quality (suitability) of a given area. Two models from the United States, the Cumulative Effects Model and Security Area Analysis, help us to understand human influences on habitat use and movements. The assumptions in these models are explicit and are based on interpretation of research results, however they only represent our best current understanding. The results of such modelling are an essential part of the science of trying to understand grizzly bear populations and habitat. They are not absolute representations of reality. They do summarize our current understanding and allow us and others to question, test and improve assumptions. However, specific model assumptions such as the influence of different levels of human use on grizzly bear habitat use, and the extent of influence of human use as expressed by buffers will continue to be refined.

The grizzly bear population

(see Introduction, Population overview and Grizzly bear mortality, pp. 1-15; and Maps 2 and 3) (Maps not included in web version)

The population and habitat status of grizzly bears in Kananaskis Country and the surrounding ecosystem can be viewed as an indicator of regional ecological integrity. This is because grizzly bears are a species with little resiliency. Because of large home ranges and movements, low population densities, low total population numbers, a very low reproductive rate and occasional direct conflict with people, grizzly bears are easy to remove or lose from any area.

Historically grizzly bears were distributed throughout what is today Kananaskis Country. Now they are apparently significantly reduced in density in eastern portions of Kananaskis Country, and somewhat reduced in density in western portions.

Today there are few grizzly bears in Kananaskis Country. Although the science behind current grizzly bear population estimates for Kananaskis Country is not exact, population estimates range from 50 to 38 for Kananaskis Country and adjacent portions of the Bow Crow Forest of south-western Alberta. These low numbers, coupled with some of the grizzlies’ other biological traits, mean that grizzly bear mortality management is fundamental to population persistence. This is especially true for adult female grizzly bears which are the reproductive engine of the population.

Our study of grizzly bear mortalities and removals (here after referred to as mortalities) in Kananaskis Country revealed that the grizzly bear hunting closure instituted in 1970 appears to have been successful at bringing mortality levels within scientifically accepted limits. Human-induced mortalities have not been eliminated, though they have been significantly reduced. We estimate a human-induced, known mortality rate for the period 1972-1997 of 2.9% (32 known mortalities; 1.2/year). Females contributed only 0.9% to this overall rate. Even if these estimates are off by 100%, which is unlikely, the total human-caused mortality rate is still below 6.5%, the scientifically accepted rate below which such mortality is not considered a cause of population decline. However, current mortality rates may continue to increase, even without more recreational use or development, as older adult females, who have had many years to adjust to changing land uses, are replaced by young females who have to develop home ranges without long term knowledge of resources or human influences on the landscape.

Also, the Kananaskis mortality rate must be considered in the regional context where grizzly bear hunting still occurs. Other mortality sources are in some places not as conservatively managed as in Kananaskis Country. Both in Kananaskis Country and regionally, human developments and activities both stress grizzly bears and increase mortality probabilities. Mortality probabilities through interaction with people will probably increase as Calgary and surround continue to grow and place more recreational and other resource demands on Kananaskis Country.

Human-induced grizzly bear mortality is still the primary management concern for grizzly bear persistence. Our study of mortalities showed that the majority (53%; 17/32) were related to ungulate hunting. The majority of these were classified as being illegal kills (8) or self-defence (6). Only one was the result of legal hunting. Two were killed by Treaty Indians. Problem wildlife related grizzly bear mortalities are becoming increasingly important. During 1981-1997, 44% (11/25), of all mortalities were of this type. Problem wildlife situations involving grizzly bears result from a juxtaposition of important grizzly bear resources, such as berries or early season grasses, with zones of human activities such as roadsides or golf courses. They also result from breakdowns in Kananaskis Country’s generally excellent management of people’s foods and garbage which may become dangerous attractants for grizzly bears. Most grizzly bears died in areas where human access was good. Ninety-six percent (24/25) of all mortalities where location could be determined were within 500 m of a road or 200 m of a trail. This demonstrates the strong relationship between access and grizzly bear mortalities.

While current mortality levels appear to be acceptable for population persistence, data regarding births and recruitment into the adult population, the other essential dimension of a viable population, suggest concern because of very low cub production. The only reported, scientifically vetted estimate of the average number of young produced by Kananaskis Country adult female grizzly bears per year is 0.46 (Wielgus and Bunnell 1994). This is one of the lowest reproductive rates reported in North America. Wielgus and Bunnell (1994) believe this low rate may be the complex consequence of high adult male mortality in the broader region, with this leading to a preponderance of young adult males that potentially and actually kill cubs, and because of this displace adult females from high quality habitats which they need to produce larger litters.

Currently we do not know whether the Kananaskis Country and regional population is increasing or decreasing. One of the major research objectives of the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Research Project is to determine this. Unfortunately scientifically acceptable estimates of growth rate require 5-10 years of reproductive and mortality data. We will provide an estimate as soon as data are sufficient.

Grizzly bear habitat, movements and security

Habitat and movement areas

Relatively low grizzly bear population number, density and reproduction relate fundamentally to habitat productivity, especially of energy rich foods such as berries and ungulates. Our major efforts regarding grizzly bear habitat classification and mapping showed a patchy distribution of highly suitable habitat and associated food resources. This is the biophysical reason for the large home range sizes we have found for grizzly bears in the region (300 sq. km. for females, 1500 sq. km. for males). Grizzly bears must be able to move widely and safely throughout their home ranges to access seasonally available resources. This is why developments and human activities must be carefully managed if grizzly bears are to be maintained. This is particularly important along important movement areas which give certain grizzly bears access to different watersheds isolated by mountain ranges. Examples of these are given (see Wildlife movement areas of Kananaskis Country). Some particularly important ones, from north to south, appear to be: Skogan Pass, Goat Creek, the south end of Spray Lakes, Burstall Pass, Little Elbow/Evans Thomas Pass, North Kananaskis Pass, Elbow Pass, Elk Pass, Highwood Pass, Weary Creek Gap, Fording River Pass, and a series of drainages from south Kananaskis Country into the Oldman and Livingstone River Valleys.

Suitable habitat (habitat quality)

(see Maps 5 and 6, for principal findings)

For analysis purposes we divided the grizzly bear foraging season into two ecologically defined periods. The first being before berries are ripe, and the second when berries are ripe and afterward. Generally, habitat suitability varies spatially and seasonally based on the occurrence of key plant and animal foods on the landscape.

During the pre-berry season concentrations of highly suitable habitat were found in the areas immediately south and north of Spray Lake, the Elk Pass area, the Smith-Dorrien River Valley, and on private lands between Bull Creek and the Highwood River east of Highway 541. During the pre-berry season, highly suitable habitat tends to cluster along most major river systems including the Kananaskis, Highwood and Bow River valleys. This was especially true for areas in the north-western Main Range portion of Kananaskis Country where there is a lot of rock and ice and only patches of grizzly bear habitat. Areas of high habitat suitability during the pre-berry season tended to be more extensive and evenly distributed in the Front Ranges. This was related to large amounts of south to west facing Aspen, Lodgepole Pine forests, low elevation grasslands, and riparian forests. This was consistent with grizzly bear telemetry research findings that show spring and early summer movements of especially male bears to front range habitats.

Patches of highly suitable habitat were more localized during the berry-and-after season. Notable areas of concentration of highly suitable berry-and-after season habitat included: the Odlum and Loomis Creek valleys and the southwest-facing slopes of the Highwood Range; the headwaters of Etherington Creek, Baril Creek, and the valley sides of Cummins and Lost Creek; the Smuts Valley off of the Smith-Dorrien Creek; the Cox Hill – Jumpingpound Creek area; the upper extent of Threepoint Creek, and the Moose Mountain Creek – Jumpingpound Mountain area. Highly suitable berry-and-after season habitats are generally limited in eastern portions of the Front Ranges in Kananaskis Country.

Habitat effectiveness

(see Table 5 for principal findings)

To estimate the extent to which peoples’ developments and activities influenced grizzly bear use of habitat we applied two models developed in the United States and widely accepted as first approximations of human influence on habitat use, alienation and security. These were the habitat effectiveness model and security area analysis.

Habitat effectiveness values estimate the percentage of habitat that is available after subtracting habitat alienated as a result of human influences. Units of analysis approximate the size and character of a female grizzly bear’s home range and are called Bear Management Units (BMUs). For 13 BMUs in Kananaskis Country, habitat effectiveness values ranged from 49% to 82% and averaged 71%. In Banff National Park prior work showed an average habitat effectiveness value of 83%. The lowest habitat effectiveness values (below 70%) in Kananaskis Country were found in BMUs in the western Main Ranges. Generally these were areas where roading and recreational development and activities were greatest. BMUs associated with the inter-mountain ranges further east generally had few primary or secondary roads and had highly effective habitat.

Research in the United States suggests that habitat effectiveness values of less than 70-80% could exceed the grizzlies’ threshold of acceptance of disturbance and lead to abandonment of the area for other than occasional foraging. Low habitat effectiveness values also increase mortality probabilities for grizzly bears. Five of thirteen BMUs in Kananaskis Country had habitat effectiveness values of less than 70% suggesting considerable stress on grizzly bears using these areas.

Habitat and security

(see Maps 8-11 for principal findings)

The other technique we used to understand the relationship between people’s developments and activities and grizzly bear habitat was security area analysis. Through this technique, which we applied to female grizzly bear home ranges found in Kananaskis Country and the greater region (Central Canadian Rockies Ecosystem), we identified the percentage of each of 20 adult female grizzly bears’ home ranges that was free enough from development to offer a low probability of disturbance during daily foraging activities. This “secure” habitat is fundamental to fostering behavioural avoidance of people. It helps to discourage habituation and food-conditioning which may lead to grizzly bears being removed as problem wildlife.

Security area analysis showed that of four jurisdictions studied, Kananaskis Country had the largest percentage (38%) of its landscape classified as being within the zone of high human influence. An additional 24% of Kananaskis Country was classified as unsuitable habitat because it was non-productive rock or ice. This left only 38% of Kananaskis Country’s land in secure status. Throughout the region of our analysis which included Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks, and adjacent Alberta and British Columbia crown lands, the three most affected female home ranges were all exclusively within Kananaskis Country. All female home ranges in Kananaskis Country fell below regional average habitat security values of 44%. This helps to explain the growing problem with habituated grizzly bears and with grizzly bear mortalities classified as problem wildlife. Grizzly bears are finding fewer and fewer opportunities to meet their daily or yearly needs without association with people. In the United States target values for habitat security are tentative, but range from 57% – 67%, well beyond the Kananaskis Country value of 38%. Projection of proposed development and use trends into the future showed grizzly bear habitat being fractionated into ever smaller non-disturbed units thus further stressing individuals and the population.

Assessment of both habitat effectiveness and security area analysis suggest significant to severe stress on grizzly bears in Kananaskis Country. Our results suggest this contributes significantly to mortalities. It may also contribute to low cub production.

Recommendations

1. Regarding grizzly bear mortality and reproduction:

Because effective management of human-caused grizzly bear mortality, especially for females, is fundamental to population persistence there is a need for explicit, sex specific, mortality targets and regular monitoring and analysis of mortalities in this regard. There is also a need for management actions that will continue to decrease mortality probabilities. Such actions should include:

a. To help decrease problem wildlife removal of grizzly bears, continue the emphasis on decreasing the availability of human-related attractants such as peoples’ food and garbage. This could be achieved by enacting regulations that would require all campers (hikers, equestrian, and hunters) to store food, garbage, and horse feed in bear proof metal or seamless PVC containers, or to effectively elevate such attractants between two trees.

b. To address the increased mortality risk for grizzly bears that have little habitat security and must live near people in high use areas (such as the Ribbon Creek-Evans-Thomas Creek area) and hence become habituated (used to being near people), better management of people with guns is needed. This could be achieved by: 1) implementing roadside wildlife sanctuaries, such as already exist in the Highwood Pass area, along all driveable roads in Kananaskis Country, 2) providing funding to continue and expand comprehensive and intensive management of grizzly bears including aversive conditioning of roadside grizzly bears and bears entering areas of concentrated human activities.

c. To address the increased mortality risk to grizzly bears associated with corridors of human access (95% of all human-caused grizzly bear mortality occurred nearby roads or trails) careful review and management of human access is needed.

d. To further protect adult female grizzly bears and their families, continue to implement closures when grizzly bear family groups are using important feeding sites that have transient human use, or when a female displays defensive or protective aggressive behaviour.

e. To further decrease chances of grizzly bear mortality and human injury, continue and expand efforts at informing the public about bear activity in Kananaskis Country. Also, continue the educational programs suggesting how to behave in grizzly bear country. Some programs should be developed specifically for groups most likely to cause avoidable grizzly bear mortality (e.g., ungulate hunters, backcountry campsite users, mountain bikers). A unique opportunity to inform ungulate hunters regarding grizzly bear behaviour and ecology exists for those chosen in limited entry draws which take place each year for Kananaskis Country.

f. To scientifically determine whether the Kananaskis Country and regional grizzly bear population is increasing or decreasing, continue to financially support at least this aspect of the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project. This will require long term data not only on mortality but also on reproduction.

2. Regarding grizzly bear habitat, security areas, and movements:

Suitable habitat has a restricted and patchy distribution, and both habitat effectiveness and habitat security were found to be significantly compromised, thus increasing mortality probabilities. For these reasons, policy changes and enabling planning and management actions are needed to restore and maintain productive habitat less compromised by people’s developments and activities. We recommend the following:

a. Particular attention should be given to preventing further loss of habitat effectiveness and security especially in high quality habitats where highly suitable seasonal grizzly bear habitat exists. Such areas have been tentatively identified in our research and in previous research by McCrory and Herrero (1983a,b) and by McCrory et al. (1982). Examples of such sites would be all valley bottom locations in the main ranges, but especially the southern end of Spray Lake and the Evans Thomas Creek fan. Each development proposal should be carefully weighed in terms habitat suitability, effectiveness loss and loss of habitat security.

b. Human impacts on movement areas that grizzly bears use should be managed at levels that will encourage movement by grizzly bears, taking into account the results of our habitat security analysis.

c. Steps should be considered to increase habitat suitability (quality) for grizzly bears, especially for energy rich foods such as berries and ungulates. The use of fire, creation of selective clearings, and even certain designs of timber harvesting can potentially enhance grizzly bear habitat. Fire suppression policies have probably significantly decreased habitat productivity for ungulates and grizzly bears. Habitat enhancement measures must begin by creating suitable habitat. In addition, human access to this habitat must be managed to encourage grizzly bear use, as habitat effectiveness and security are also important.

3. Regarding scientific research on grizzly bears and the relationship of such knowledge to regional land use policy formation, planning, and management:

Because certain aspects of grizzly bear biology make their populations susceptible to decline, and because human activities and developments continue to expand in Kananaskis Country and impact grizzly bear population and habitat, there will be a continuing need to financially support research that provides defensible, scientific information on grizzly bear population and habitat status. Since some of this knowledge is best portrayed in models such as the habitat effectiveness model and Security Area Analysis, model assumptions such as thresholds related to human use levels and the zone of influence of human use need further research to gain greater precision. Also, research linking habitat suitability (quality), effectiveness, and security with population viability should be supported. This could contribute significantly to more science-based population and habitat management. This evolving knowledge needs to be formally and regularly input into regional policy and planning decisions. It needs to be implemented by managers who have the necessary finances and person power.

Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project Habitat Studies (1998)


Habitat inventory, evaluation and mapping results from the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project have been presented within three different technical reports as of December 1998. Summarized below are the background and results of each report. More detail about the first two reports is available by following the links for each title.

“Grizzly Bear Population and Habitat Status in Banff National Park” (Gibeau et al. 1996)

This report was completed at the request of the Banff Bow Valley Task Force whose mandate it was to study the cumulative effects of human development and activities in the Bow River valley of Banff National Park, Alberta. At the time that this study was commissioned, habitat inventory and mapping had not been completed by the ESGBP within Banff National Park. The authors relied instead upon an existing food habits model for the 4 Mountain Parks by Kansas and Riddell (1995) as a basis for habitat effectiveness and security area analysis. This model was used to assess inherent food potential for 40 Bear Management Units (BMUs) encompassing 9,344 km2 of land in Banff, Kootenay and Yoho National Parks. Results showed that a significant portion of the study area was only moderately productive habitat, much of this due to the high percentage of rock, ice and high elevation tundra in the study area. Highest habitat quality occurred primarily in those BMUs encompassing a high percentage of valley bottom and Montane habitats. Habitat effectiveness modelling was completed by overlaying human use features onto habitat mapping to calculate “realized habitat potential” values per BMU. Disturbance coefficients and zones of influence from the Yellowstone Ecosystem were adopted for various types and intensities of human use. Average habitat effectiveness for the entire study area was 83.1% ranging from 46.6% to 97.9% per BMU. Forty-four (44%) of the BMUs in Banff National park were below 80% habitat effectiveness.

The authors also evaluated the effect of changing levels of human use and prescribed fire on security areas available to grizzly bears for the time periods 1950, 1995, and 2045. A successional model of grizzly bear habitat suitability of mapped ecosites was developed to aid in these assessments. Results showed that the lower elevation Montane ecoregion currently supports only 2.5% of its land area as security areas, as opposed to 45% and 41.2% for the Lower and Upper Subalpine regions respectively. Human land use activities occurring between 1950 and 1995 reduced grizzly bear habitat security in the Montane region greater than double the amount of lands at higher elevations. Under a 6% growth scenario when projected to 2045, secure habitat for grizzly bears in the Montane region of Banff National Park would be all but eliminated. By limiting human activities in selected areas secure habitat for grizzly bears could be increased by 31% for the current time period. Fire suppression over the last 60 years has significantly reduced the amount of high quality grizzly bear habitat in Banff National Park. Introduction of a hypothetical fire regime increased the amount of high quality grizzly bear habitat in secure areas approximately 1.5 orders of magnitude by the year 2045.

“Grizzly Bear Population and Habitat Status in Kananaskis Country, Alberta” (Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project 1998)

This report was prepared by 4 members of the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project study team at the request of Alberta Environmental Protection, Natural Resources Service as part of their Kananaskis Country Recreation Policy Review. The analyses in this study benefited from 4 years of field research and preliminary analysis in Kananaskis Country. A 5712 km2 study area encompassing all of Kananaskis Country was subdivided into 13 Bear Management Units ranging in size from 206 km2 to 463 km2. Five hierarchically nested habitat maps were completed for the study area using digital overlays of vegetation and topographic maps (Kansas and Newyar 1998). Level 4 mapping resulted in 122 different recurring map units for the study area. This level of mapping formed the framework for grizzly bear habitat modelling. 1411 detailed ground sample plots that collected data on key grizzly bear foods fueled models. An average of 12.7 plots were collected per Level 4 map unit. Habitats with highest suitability for the pre-berry season (den emergence to July 15) included: 1) moderately to steeply sloping shrublands in the subalpine region; 2) riparian spruce and conifer-dominated mixedwood forests in the Lower Foothills and Lower Subalpine regions; 3) south to west facing, moderately sloping deciduous forests; 4) treed clearcuts; 5) gently sloping pine-mixedwood forest in the Lower Foothills and Lower Subalpine; and 6) steeply sloping, south to west facing grasslands in the Subalpine region. Patches of high suitability habitat in the pre-berry season were concentrated along the major river systems including the Kananaskis, Highwood and Bow River valleys. Highest suitability habitats during the berry-and-after season (July 16 to den entry) were: 1) treed and shrub sapling clearcuts; 2) moderately to steeply sloping south to west facing shrublands; 3) moderately to steeply sloping south to west facing Lodgepole pine forests and pine mixedwood forests in the Lower Foothills and Lower Subalpine regions; and 4) riparian Balsam Poplar and White spruce forests in the Lower Foothills and Lower Subalpine. High suitability habitat during the berry and after season was limited in the eastern portions of the Front Range BMUs.

Habitat effectiveness values were calculated for the 13 BMUs using the same disturbance coefficients and zones of influence that were used for the Banff Bow Valley Study (Gibeau et al. 1996). Values ranged from 49% to 82% and averaged 71%. Lowest habitat effectiveness values were found in BMUs that encompassed major river valleys in the western portion of Kananaskis Country. This was thought to be due to the concentration of human activities along highly suitable river valley habitats.

“Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project: Habitat Mapping and Evaluation Component”(Kansas and Newyar 1998)

This progress report summarizes 4 seasons of habitat inventory and mapping and grizzly bear habitat use for the period 1994 to 1997. The habitat inventory and mapping data are focussed on a 5712 km2 study area on Alberta provincial lands surrounding Kananaskis Country. The habitat use analyses combined data from both Kananaskis Country and Banff National Park.

A total of 1400 detailed habitat availability plots were completed in the Kananaskis study area. These plots collected information on bear foods and security cover and form the basis for completing both grizzly bear and ungulate habitat models. Grizzly bear habitat use information was recorded at 951 feeding sites. These sample plots collected enough plant cover information to classify the plant association or micro-habitat inclusion type, and recorded type of use, intensity of use, approximate age of sign, and the particular plant or animal foods utilized. Along with radio-telemetry data these plots will be used to verify the accuracy of completed and evolving habitat suitability models.

Five hierarchically-nested habitat maps were completed for the study area. Each map was built from the next most detailed map through a progressive grouping and classification process. Digital overlays of 1:20,000 scale forest cover mapping and 1:20,000 scale digital elevation model derivatives (slope, aspect, elevation) formed the basis for this mapping. The purpose of this approach was to provide a wide range of map products and mapping scales for planning, evaluation and statistical analysis. This approach also will form the basis for John Kansas’ M.Sc. Thesis which will test the effects of habitat inventory and mapping scale on habitat evaluation output as this influences habitat effectiveness models. The report also summarizes the results of a Landsat-TM based classification and mapping of land cover for the study area.

Preliminary summaries of grizzly bear habitat use were done of 951 feeding sites throughout Kananaskis Country and Banff National Park. These summaries included relationships between feeding sites and aspect (5 classes), elevation (4 classes), ecological region (4 classes), vegetation cover type (24 classes), and food type (7 types). Also summarized were the extent to which and habitats within bears utilized non-mappable micro-habitat inclusions. Results of these summaries are preliminary and require further analysis at this point in time.

Grizzly Bears, Habitat, and Humans in the Skoki, Baker, South Pipestone, and Lake Louise Bear Management Units, Banff National Park (1999)


Jalkotzy, M.G., R.R. Riddell, and J. Wierzchowski. 1999. Grizzly bears, habitat, and humans in the Skoki, Baker, South Pipestone, and Lake Louise bear management units, Banff National Park. Prepared for Parks Canada and The Skiing Louise Group. Arc Wildlife Services Ltd., Riddell Environmental Research Ltd., and Geomar Consulting Ltd. 101 pp.

Note: The Executive Summary this report is displayed below. You also have the option of downloading a PDF version of the Executive Summary.

November 1999
M.G. Jalkotzy (Arc Wildlife Services Ltd.),
R. Riddell (Riddell Environmental Research Ltd.), and
J. Wierzchowski (Geomar Consulting Ltd.)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Cumulative effects modelling was developed in the 1980’s to quantitatively and qualitatively assess the cumulative effects of human activity on grizzly bear habitat and habitat use in specified areas of grizzly bear range. The Eastern Slopes Grizzly Project is an interagency, multi-stakeholder research project designed to understand and predict the cumulative effects of development on grizzly bears along the eastern slopes of the Rockies including Banff National Park. Results from the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project will provide concrete answers to questions regarding the impacts of humans on grizzly bears in the Central Canadian Rockies including Banff National Park. However, impending land-use decisions in the Lake Louise area of Banff National Park made that area of special concern to Parks Canada.

Habitat effectiveness (HE) modelling is 1 part of a cumulative effects assessment. HE modelling is a product of overlaying 2 input layers, habitat potential and human disturbance. Habitat potential is the inherent capability of the landscape to support grizzly bears. Grizzly bears respond to human activities by altering their normal spatial and temporal patterns of habitat use. Realized habitat is land that grizzly bears wary of humans will continue to use after the effects of human disturbance on the landscape have been accounted for. HE is the amount of realized habitat expressed as a percentage of the landscape’s potential. HE modelling is applied at a landscape scale; bear management units (BMU’s) typically encompass watersheds.

In 1997, Parks Canada developed a new management plan for Banff National Park in which park planning and operations are driven by the grizzly bear HE targets within BMU’s. Geomar Consulting Ltd. and Parks Canada developed an interative HE model at a 1:50,000 scale to assist with planning and managing human use and development within the national parks. This iterative HE model allows park managers to develop land-use scenarios that will attain grizzly bear HE targets set out in the new management plan. Parks Canada contracted Arc Wildlife Services Ltd. and Riddell Environmental Research Ltd. to develop a refined HE model (1:20,000 scale) for the Lake Louise area to assist with management planning in that area. This work was conducted cooperatively with the East Slopes Grizzly Bear Project with access to their data. The study area encompassed approximately 630 km² of Banff National Park centred on the Village of Lake Louise. Habitat potential and realized habitat were mapped, and HE values were determined for the Skoki, Lake Louise, Baker, and South Pipestone BMU’s.

This report summarizes the results of the HE model for the Lake Louise area, and places those results in the context of cumulative effects assessment and grizzly bear conservation in Banff National Park and the surrounding Central Canadian Rockies Ecosystem.

Habitat Potential

The landscape in the Lake Louise study area is diverse and its value to grizzly bears is variable. Based on potential habitat modelling, 29% of the study area is made up of areas that have no food value for grizzly bears with values from 17% (South Pipestone BMU) to 40% (Lake Louise BMU) in individual BMU’s. Similarly, the amount of grizzly bear habitat rated as good or very good in the potential habitat model comprised 24% of the study area. Since the sizes of the 4 BMU’s are variable, the amounts of good grizzly bear habitat and unusable terrain varies across the study area. The Baker BMU is both the largest of the 4 BMU’s and the BMU with the most habitat rated as good or very good for grizzly bears, more than twice as much as any other BMU. The Lake Louise BMU is the second largest but also has the most land that is not rated as habitat for grizzly bears.

The spatial and temporal distribution of potential habitat is also important to bears. Grizzly bear habitat in mountain landscapes is naturally fragmented by the distribution of inhospitable terrain at higher elevations. In the Lake Louise study area, large continuous pieces of potential grizzly bear habitat are associated with major valley bottoms, in particular the Bow River, the Pipestone River, Baker Creek, and the upper Red Deer River. Grizzly bear habitat at higher elevations tends to have a patchy distribution relative to the valley bottoms. Temporal variation in potential habitat quality for grizzly bears results from the changing importance of plant foods and other food sources throughout the year. The food habitats model rated habitat polygons for grizzly bears on a monthly basis to take into account this variation. As a result, the relative quality and quantity of habitats rated as good or very good for grizzly bears in the potential habitat model changed with the seasons.

Within the Skoki BMU, the Bow Valley contains the largest contiguous pieces of good and very good grizzly bear habitat in all seasons. The majority of the Skiing Louise lease within the Bow Valley is rated as good or very good potential grizzly bear habitat in all seasons. On an annual basis, good and very good habitats encompass 2,635 ha or 17% of the BMU, while non-habitat accounts for 5,175 ha or 33.2%. The Baker BMU contains more good and very good grizzly bear habitat than any other BMU within the Lake Louise study area. On an annual basis, good and very good habitats account for 6,791 ha (40% of the BMU), while land rated as non-habitat for grizzly bears takes in an additional 4,306 ha (25% of the BMU). The largest contiguous block of good and very good habitat in all seasons includes the Bow Valley and the lower portions of Baker Creek. Twenty-four percent of the South Pipestone BMU or 3,229 ha is rated as good or very good on an annual basis. Non-habitat accounts for 18% or 2,388 ha within the BMU. Habitat potential in spring in the South Pipestone BMU is an interwoven matrix of moderate and good habitats. Very good habitats are limited in extent. Major portions of the Bow Valley within the BMU, the Pipestone and Little Pipestone Rivers, Molar Creek, and other tributaries are rated as very good, particularly in the summer. The Lake Louise BMU has 6,680 ha or 40% of the BMU rated as non-habitat. It also has just 2,297 ha or 14% of its land base rated as good or very good potential grizzly bear habitat on an annual basis, less than any other BMU in the study area. In spring, good and very good habitat potential for grizzly bears in the Lake Louise BMU is limited primarily to the Bow Valley. In summer, the amount of good and very good potential habitat expands to include all of the Bow Valley, and the majority of major tributary drainages; only higher elevation habitats are rated as moderate, poor, or non-habitat. Very good habitat is more extensive and contiguous in the summer than in spring, particularly in the Bow Valley. Potential habitat rated as good is almost as extensive in the fall as during the summer; however, the amount of very good habitat declined and is more fragmented in the fall.

Human Disturbance

The Lake Louise BMU sustains the highest levels of human use in the study area. Day use probably exceeds several thousand hikers per month in the summer on many of the popular trails and there are trails in every valley. Use of hiking trails was rated as low (<100 users/month) during the spring since most are still snow covered. However, during the summer and fall virtually all human disturbances were rated high (>100 users/month) throughout the BMU. The Bow Valley within the BMU is heavily impacted by the Village of Lake Louise and surrounding outlying commercial accommodations. In addition, the TransCanada Highway passes through it and the zones of influence surrounding the Bow Valley Parkway, CP Rail, and Skiing Louise’s activity area impinge on the BMU. Human use levels in the Skoki BMU were ranked second among the 4 BMU’s in the study area, well below those in the Lake Louise BMU, but higher than use levels in Baker and South Pipestone. Overall, human use in summer is high, exceeding >100 users/month on most trails within the Skoki backcountry, including day-use hiking loops to Lake Merlin, and around Skoki and Fossil Mountains. Spring and fall use in the backcountry was rated low since these high elevation trails are often not snow-free before mid-June and become snow-covered by early October. Most human use in the Baker Creek BMU occurs in the Bow Valley. The Bow Valley Parkway and CP Rail are within the BMU while the TransCanada Highway is outside, but its zone of influence affects the BMU. The Baker Creek Trail is designated low use throughout the 3 seasons with the exception of the south end during the summer months when it is frequently used by guests of Baker Creek Chalets. Human use of the South Pipestone BMU is concentrated in the upper Bow Valley along the Icefields Parkway. Human use in the backcountry was rated as low during all 3 seasons.

Realized Habitat and Habitat Effectiveness

Realized habitat maps were developed for each BMU in May, August, and October. These maps indicate the extent to which the amount and distribution of grizzly bear habitats in all BMU’s are altered by human disturbance. This has many effects on bears within the BMU. Three effects are discussed relative to realized habitat within each BMU. First, the extent of grizzly bear habitat within the BMU is reduced. There are fewer places for bears to forage. Second, the sizes of the remaining patches of good and very good grizzly bear habitat are reduced. There are fewer places where grizzly bears can remain within the BMU without being disturbed by humans. Finally, linkages of good and very good habitat between larger pockets of undisturbed lands are reduced in size and number. Further fragmentation of a naturally-fragmented landscape makes it more difficult for grizzly bears to move throughout the BMU’s without contacting humans.

Baker BMU

Realized habitat in the Baker BMU contrasts the effects of human use of the Bow Valley with those in the Baker Creek drainage. The TransCanada Highway, the Bow Valley Parkway, CP Rail, and outlying commercial accommodation combine to drive all potential habitat values in the valley bottom to realized values of less than 0.5 on the 10-point scale (non-habitat) in all seasons. Human use on the Baker Creek Trail lowers habitat values from good to moderate in certain lower portions of Baker Creek, particularly in spring. Outside of lower elevations in the Bow Valley, linkages between good and very good realized habitat polygons are relatively intact in the Baker BMU. HE values for the Baker BMU in spring, summer, and fall are 78.8%, 76.5%, and 78.4%, respectively.

South Pipestone BMU

Realized habitat in the South Pipestone BMU again demonstrates the differences between human use of the Bow Valley and the backcountry. Although the Bow Valley is rated as predominantly good and very good potential habitat for grizzly bears, realized habitat values are poor when the effects of the Icefields Parkway are factored in. Realized habitat values in the Pipestone River drainage change little from their potential as a result of low human use. Outside of the Bow Valley, good and very good habitat patches remain relatively large and well-connected within the South Pipestone BMU. HE values for the South Pipestone BMU in spring, summer, and fall are 92.6%, 92.7%, and 92.6%, respectively.

Lake Louise BMU

The effects of high human use on a naturally-fragmented mountain landscape is well-illustrated in the Lake Louise BMU. Most good and very good potential habitat in the Bow Valley and tributary valleys (e.g., Paradise Valley, Moraine Lake, Lake Louise) becomes poor realized habitat as a result of human disturbance in all seasons. Remaining fragments of good and very good habitat are scattered throughout the BMU with very poor connectivity between them. Once again, the Bow Valley represents the best potential habitat within the BMU, yet realized habitat is worst as a result of the concentration of motorized human activities in the valley. This concentration of activity in the Bow Valley also presents a serious blockage to grizzly bear movements within the larger landscape of the study area. HE values for the Lake Louise BMU in spring, summer, and fall are 47.2%, 37.1%, and 37.6%, respectively.

Habitat Effectiveness Targets and Management Scenarios

The Banff Park Management Plan recognizes that to fulfill the mandate of PC to protect ecological integrity and at the same time to continue to offer visitors the opportunity to enjoy a quality visitor experience, direct management of human use is required at a scale not currently practiced. HE was chosen as a means of quantifying the degree of human disturbance on large carnivores, and HE targets were chosen for carnivore management units as a quantifiable measure of ecological integrity. Within the management plan’s section titled “Effective Human Use Management”, stated principles include “human use management will be based on the desired effectiveness of each Carnivore Management Unit”. Since HE modelling for carnivores other than grizzly bears has not been undertaken, grizzly bear HE is currently being used as a surrogate. Carnivore management units in the plan are equivalent to BMU’s in the grizzly bear HE model. Baker, South Pipestone, and Skoki BMU’s have summer targets of >90% in the management plan; only the South Pipestone BMU currently reaches that level. Skoki and Baker are 9.0% and 14.5% less than their target HE’s. Although the Lake Louise BMU has the lowest target of all BMU’s in the study area at >60%, it is also farthest from the target with an HE value for summer 22.8% below 60%.

Several human use management scenarios were tested to determine the degree of change required to increase HE values within the 4 BMU’s. Comparing HE values within the Lake Louise BMU in spring versus summer and fall indicate the changes required to significantly raise HE values in that BMU. The change from low to high use on all backcountry trails decreased HE for the BMU by about 10%. Increases in HE to reach the target set out in the management plan for the BMU will require drastic changes in human use. In the Skoki BMU, scenarios that significantly reduce human use in the Bow Valley would result in HE values above 90%. For example, if summer use of the Skiing Louise lease was capped below 100 users per month (ski area maintenance only) and human use in Skoki’s backcountry was also kept low (<100 users per month), the resulting HE value would probably meet the target set out in the management plan. Decommissioning the Baker Creek Trail and trails associated with it increases HE in that BMU by 2.5% over the current use scenario in August. Achieving HE of over 80% in the Baker BMU requires severe curtailment of human activities within the Bow Valley since the loss of HE within the BMU is principally in that portion of the BMU. As an example, the decommissioning of the Bow Valley Parkway and associated human developments (e.g., Corral Creek picnic area, Protection Mountain campground, Baker Creek Chalet, Baker Creek Trail) would increase HE by 8% to 84.5% in August. These human use scenarios serve to emphasize the extent to which grizzly bear habitat in the study area has been compromised, and the kinds of changes to human use that will be necessary to bring HE values to targets set out in the Banff National Park management plan. Grizzly Bear Home Ranges and Habitat Use

Home Ranges

Three adult female grizzly bears, F30, F36, and F46, were radio tracked in and around the Lake Louise study area during the course of this work. Between 1994 and 1998, 1,441 radio locations were collected from these bears both from aircraft and from the ground. The 184 km2 cumulative home range of F30 included the middle Bow Valley, Baker Creek, the lower Pipestone, and the Skoki area. F46’s 112 km2 cumulative home range overlapped with F30’s in the Bow Valley, Skoki, and upper Baker Creek, but also included the upper Red Deer River around Red Deer Lakes. F36’s home range was 555.4 km2 and was centred on the upper Bow Valley between Hector Lake and Bow Summit. It also included the headwaters of the Pipestone River, and areas to the south and west in Kickinghorse Pass, Sherbrooke Lakes, and the Yoho Valley. Her movements did not overlap with the other 2 radiocollared bears.

Habitat Use

The aerial radio locations of F30 and F46 were pooled for the analysis of habitat use in Baker and Skoki BMU’s to increase sample sizes for each season. Only aerial locations were used because they are a random sample of each bear’s movements. Radio location data collected on the ground were biased because proportionately more data were collected in more accessible areas like the Bow Valley (i.e., a grizzly bear’s movements over its entire home range were not sampled randomly). Both bears were accompanied by cubs throughout most of the sample period and both used large portions of the 2 BMU’s. F36 was not used in the habitat analysis because her home range was outside the boundaries of the habitat map.

F30 and F46 did not use ecosites within the Baker and Skoki BMU’s between 1994-98 in a random manner (Pearson’s Chi-square, P<0.001). Use of ecosites and consolidated cover types varied seasonally. Among ecosites, WF2 was strongly preferred in all 3 seasons and several were used preferentially in 2 of 3 seasons annually. Ten ecosites, BY1, CV1, EG1, EN2, PP3, PR4, SB1, WF2, and WF7 were strongly selected for by F30 and F46 between den emergence and the end of June. PR3, WF2, and SB1 were the 3 most strongly-selected ecosites; the 3 together represent 5.6% of land within the 2 BMU’s. Twelve ecosites, CA4, EG2, EG3, PP3, PL4, RD1, SX1, SX2, T, WF1, WF2, and WH5 were strongly selected for by F30 and F46 during July and August. EG3, PL4, and RD1 were the 3 most preferred ecosites, primarily because of their limited areal extent relative to their use. All 3 ecosites together represent 2.7% of land in the 2 BMU’s. In fall, 13 ecosites, BS1, BY1, CA4, CN1, EN2, RD1, SB1, SX1, TR1, WF1, WF2, WH2, and WH3 were strongly selected for by F30 and F46. SB1, BS1, and WF1 were the 3 most-preferred ecosites within the 2 BMU’s, again because of their limited areal extent relative to their use. All 3 ecosites together represent just 1.9% of the landscape. F30 and F46 also used certain consolidated cover types significantly more often than expected while others were used significantly less (Pearson’s Chi-square, P<0.001). Avalanche Types

Cover types dominated by avalanche slopes were the most strongly selected for cover types in the spring and fall. Avalanche slopes tend to be snow-free prior to the surrounding landscape in spring. Hedysarum, milk vetch, and bearberry are common on many avalanche slopes and were used by bears in the early spring. Hedysarum roots in particular are an important early spring food for grizzlies. In late spring, avalanche slopes continued to provide important food plants, including cow parsnip, tufted hair grass, spike trisetum grass, and brome grass. In summer, in addition to a wide variety of succulent vegetation, buffaloberry, and various Vaccinium spp. became available. Crowberry, an important fall fruit for bears, is also common in avalanche tracks. Bears again used hedysarum in the late fall immediately prior to den entrance. In spring, F30 and F46 used avalanche slopes around their den sites in upper Baker Creek and in the Skoki Lakes area, respectively. F46 also used them in Wildflower Creek in spring. Use of avalanche slopes during the summer was more dispersed and occurred throughout the 2 BMU’s. In fall, the 2 females’ use of this type was concentrated in the areas they chose for denning in the Skoki area and upper Baker Creek.

Ski Hill

Cleared ski runs on the Skiing Louise lease were strongly selected for in the Baker and Skoki BMU’s in spring. Early green-up of forbs, particularly introduced clover, alfalfa, and dandelions, on the lower slopes of the ski runs attracted bears in the spring. Wet seeps on and in the vicinity of ski runs with their communities of common horsetail, and various nutritious grasses and sedges, were also attractive to bears. Although selection for the type weakened in the summer, attraction to these artificial openings in the summer continued as green-up progressed up the slope. Berry production, particularly buffaloberry, tends to be greater along the ecotone between the predominantly closed forest surrounding the ski runs and the open runs than in closed forest itself, providing foraging opportunities in late summer. Ski runs were avoided in the fall probably because better food sources were available elsewhere. In addition, den sites of F30 and F46 tended to be in more remote areas away from human disturbance and the bears were moving into these areas in the fall.

Closed Forest

Closed forest was the predominant cover type within the Skoki and Baker BMU’s. It was strongly selected for in the spring, to a lesser degree in the summer, and strongly avoided in the fall. It is found in a wide variety of ecosites containing forest cover and often contained inclusions of non-closed cover types and miscellaneous landscape types too interspersed or too small to map. However, these unmappable (at this scale) landscape units are frequently those most important to grizzly bears for late spring and early summer feeding (e.g., seeps containing common horsetail and tufted hair grass). In this analysis, closed forest was defined as forest with >15-20% cover and included lodgepole pine forests with canopy cover between 20% and 50%. Buffaloberry fruiting declines dramatically when canopy cover exceeded 50%, but is high below 45-50% canopy cover. Many lodgepole pine forests with 20-50% canopy cover, defined as closed forest in this analysis, produce excellent fruit and attracted bears during the late summer. Selection for the cover type declined in the fall as other bear foods became available. F30 and F46 made most use of this cover type in the Bow Valley in the vicinity of the Skiing Louise lease. In this case, F30 and F46 probably used the closed forest as security cover during the day. Ski runs were strongly selected for in spring and closed forest is the predominant cover type adjacent to the ski runs.

Shrub Types

Shrub cover types, excluding those associated with avalanche types, were avoided by F30 and F46 during the spring months, but were strongly selected for in summer and fall. In early summer, many important succulents such as cow parsnip were locally abundant and attracted grizzlies. Shrub cover types include many berry-producing species and the availability of berries attracted bears during late summer and fall. Their occurrence within the 2 BMU’s was widespread and use by F30 and F46 was not concentrated in any particular area. In and around the Skiing Louise lease, shrub cover types in Wolverine Bowl and the Temple area were used by F30 and F46.

Open Forest Types

Open forest was strongly avoided in spring, but was strongly selected for in summer and fall. Use of open forest cover types was associated with a wide variety of upper subalpine Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir habitats. In early summer, common horsetail is the dominant ground cover in certain Engelmann spruce habitats. In addition, in late summer buffaloberry produce more fruit in open forests than in closed forests. Crowberry is locally abundant in these forests as well and is an important fruit for bears in the fall. Several berry-producing Vaccinium spp. are also present. F30 and F46’s locations in open forests in summer were scattered throughout their home ranges with use occurring on the Skiing Louise lease both on the front side of Whitehorn and in the Temple/Ptarmigan areas. However, in fall F30 frequently used open forest cover types in the vicinity of her den site, while F46 used open forests in Oyster Creek. Use of the Skiing Louise lease in fall was limited to the Temple/Ptarmigan area where bears frequently fed on crowberry.

Grizzly Bear Movements Relative to Human Development

Grizzly bear movements and use of habitat in the vicinity of human developments varied between seasons and years, as well as between bears. Core home ranges of the 3 adult female bears radio tracked during this study included a wide variety of human infrastructure. F30’s core home ranges in spring and summer included the Skiing Louise lease and in particular, the front side of Whitehorn Mountain. F30 used the Back Bowls, the Temple area, and Wolverine Bowl every fall. F46 also used the Skiing Louise lease during the spring and early summer in most years. However, she was located on the front side of Whitehorn just once in 1996. She was not usually located within the Skiing Louise lease in the fall, although she sometimes used the upper end of Corral Creek between Richardson Ridge and Wolverine Bowl. F36’s core home range included Num-Ti-Jah Lodge at Bow Lake. Human activity in these areas was frequent and in some cases continuous during daylight hours.

Reactions to roads by these 3 bears appeared to depend on traffic volume and roadway width. F36 was not documented crossing the TransCanada Highway, but did cross the Icefields Parkway on a regular basis, at times more than once per day. F30 and F46 moved back and forth across the Bow Valley Parkway. However, neither bear was documented crossing the TransCanada Highway which bordered their home ranges to the south. The TransCanada Highway carries over 1,600 vehicles per hour on a typical afternoon in August, while traffic volumes on the Icefields Parkway and the Bow Valley Parkway are just 25% of that. On the Skiing Louise lease, the roads to Temple Lodge and to other hill facilities on both the front and back side of the ski hill are closed to public travel, but are used several times a day by Skiing Louise staff and others with permission. It lies in the heart of F30’s and F46’s spring and summer ranges and they crossed it as much as several times per day, both during the day and at night.

Hiking trails including some with human use exceeding thousands of users per month in the summer crisscross the home ranges of all 3 grizzly bears; their selection of home ranges did not appear to avoid areas with hiking trails. A quantitative analysis of grizzly bear habitat use in the vicinity of trails is beyond the scope of this study. However, levels of human use on trails appeared to affect habitat use in the vicinity of trails. For example, bear use of habitat close to the heavily-used trail to Boulder Pass and Deception Pass, a trail in open terrain, typically occurred in late September only after human use of the trail system declined from high summer levels. Even at low use levels, crepuscular or nocturnal feeding along these trails was the norm.

Radio telemetry locations of F30 and F46 in the immediate vicinity of the Skiing Louise lease in spring and summer were used to test the hypothesis that F36 and F40 were located farther from ski runs and the base lodge during periods when there was human activity (07:00 – 18:00), than during periods of relative inactivity (18:00 – 07:00). In spring and summer, both F30 and F46 tended to be closer to ski runs and the base lodge at night than during the day. In addition, both bears tended to be closer to the ski runs than to the base lodge in spring and summer.

The behaviours of both F30 and F46 relative to human developments are likely the result of habituation, the ability to tolerate humans as a means of accessing food or finding security from potentially threatening bears. Both F30 and F46 were exposed to humans and their developments on a daily basis. Their home ranges overlapped with human developments both in the front country in the Bow Valley and in the backcountry. Their daily movement patterns were affected by humans and their developments throughout their home ranges. In order to utilize high quality seasonal foods in the Bow Valley and possibly to avoid dominant bears in more remote areas, they were forced to accept the presence of human developments. Through their experiences, they became habituated to the presence of humans and continued to use quality habitats in close proximity to humans and human developments. This, however, is likely at a cost to their longevity. Empirical data from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem support the contention that habituation is detrimental to the long term survival of grizzly bears. Between 1975 and 1990, habituated, radio marked bears were killed 3.1 times more often than wary radio marked bears.

Current thinking within management agencies is that we should be managing for wary grizzly bears. In the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project, wary bears used higher-quality habitat and moved less than habituated bears. Bears living in lower quality habitat have reduced energy input. Increased movements result in greater energy expenditures for bears. Overall, the energy balance of habituated bears that do not have access to human foods will be lower than wary bears in the same ecosystem. Beyond maintenance requirements, adult female bears require energy for reproduction. These data suggest that habituation could reduce the reproductive output of an adult female grizzly bear; that is, she may produce fewer offspring over her life span. Therefore, habituation has the potential to depress natality in a regional population. Given the naturally-low reproductive output of grizzly bears, this could reduce the long term viability of grizzly bear populations within protected areas like Banff National Park.

Summary

The grizzly bear population within the Lake Louise study area is probably at risk based on the analysis of data presented in this report and additional analyses of data from the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project (Benn 1998, Gibeau et al. 1996, Gibeau 1998, Gibeau and Herrero 1999, Gibeau et al. 1999a,b). HE is seriously compromised by human development in the Lake Louise, Skoki, and Baker BMU’s. In particular, the Bow Valley, where grizzly bear habitat potential is greatest, is negatively affected by the TransCanada Highway, the Bow Valley Parkway, the CP Railway, the Village of Lake Louise and outlying commercial accommodation in the vicinity, and the Skiing Louise lease. Linkage zone analysis (Gibeau et al. 1996) indicates that these developments have created a significant filter to bear movements both back and forth across and up and down the Bow Valley. Radio telemetry data from the East Slopes Grizzly Project supports this conclusion (Gibeau et al. 1999a). Core security analysis (Gibeau et al. 1999b) shows that grizzly bears in the study area survive in one of the most human-influenced landscapes where they still exist. Reduced HE, severed landscape linkages, and low percentages of land free of human encroachment mean that these grizzlies must frequently encounter humans. High encounter rates often lead to habituated bears, and habituated bears have significantly higher mortality rates than wary bears. The examination of grizzly bear mortality patterns in the Lake Louise region concludes that Lake Louise has been and continues to be a mortality sink within the larger Central Canadian Rockies Ecosystem (Benn 1998). Significant changes to human land use patterns are required in the Lake Louise area to reverse these trends.

Status of the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project (ESGBP): May 1999


Herrero, S. and M. Gibeau. 1999. Status of the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project (ESGBP): May 1999. Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.

Stephen Herrero, ESGBP Research Supervisor and Chair of Steering Committee Environmental Science Program, Faculty of Environmental Design

and

Michael Gibeau, Principal Researcher Committee on Resources and Environment University of Calgary

ESGBP website: www.canadianrockies.net/grizzly

ABSTRACT: In and around Banff National Park (an area we call the Central Rockies Ecosystem—CRE) grizzly bears exist in one of the most developed landscapes in North America where they still survive. In the CRE there are about 1,000,000 people within a few hours drive of occupied grizzly bear habitat. The CRE is under great pressure for resource extraction, recreation, and resort and housing development. It is a critical link in the Yellowstone to Yukon landscape because here habitat available for large carnivores is relatively pinched. The Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project (ESGBP) began in 1994 in response to an urgent need for scientific understanding of the cumulative effects of development and human activities on grizzly bears in the 40,000 sq. km. CRE. This understanding is the primary goal of the project. Research is designed and executed by graduate students and staff at the University of Calgary, with considerable outside input. The ESGBP is guided by a steering committee made up of representatives from major CRE regional stakeholders. Included are the federal and provincial government, conservation and recreation groups, and commercial interests such as resource extraction industries, and land developers. While the ESGBP does not have jurisdiction or management authority related to grizzly bears or their habitat, because we have representation from major stakeholders, we have had considerable influence in this regard. Research priorities are to determine demographic and habitat parameters and to link these in a habitat and population viability model to identify landscape management conditions that will enhance grizzly bear (and other sensitive carnivore) persistence. We radio-monitor about 25 grizzly bears per year, focussing on adult females. We now have 70 bear years of reproductive data for adult females. Within 2-3 more years we will have 100 years, enough to calculate lambda, a scientific estimate of whether the population is increasing or decreasing. Our preliminary results suggest that for the Alberta portion of the CRE grizzly bears have low fecundity and hence little demographic resilience. Age of first reproduction is 6.8, inter-litter interval 4.0, and average litter size 1.9. The CRE grizzly bear population occurs at low densities (1/50-100 sq. km.). Home ranges are large, males average 1172 sq.km., females 277. These demographic characteristics demand very conservative management of adult female mortality—no more than 1-2% per year. In analysing 627 human-caused grizzly bear mortalities we have found that 85% of 462 where location was known occurred within 500m of a road or facility, or 200 m of a trail. Access management is a key to mortality management in the CRE. We have also found that our landscape is naturally fragmented for grizzly bears by mountain ranges. This natural fragmentation is augmented by extensive human development in many major valley systems. A major research finding regarding habitat and population fragmentation is that after five years of research no adult females have been found to cross the Trans-Canada highway. Because of our research findings and our diverse stakeholder representation we have been successful in getting conservative mortality targets and better habitat security in significant portions of the CRE. We will continue our efforts in this regard. We believe the ESGBP has made a significant beginning toward scientifically understanding grizzly bear biology, and linking this to decision processes in our society.

NEED/PURPOSE:

Grizzly bears in the Central Rockies Ecosystem (CRE), the area in and nearby Banff National Park and Kananaskis Country, exist within a few hours drive of about 1,000,000 people. This is one of the most developed and used landscapes in North America where grizzly bears still survive. It is a critical link in the Yellowstone to Yukon landscape because here habitat available for large carnivores is relatively pinched.

Careful management based on sound science is required to stem habitat loss and population decline. In the CRE grizzly bears occur at low densities (1/50-100 sq. km). Home ranges are large. In the CRE we have found male home ranges average 1172 sq. km (99% Minimum Convex Polygon method); female home ranges average 277 sq. km. Females have few young in their lifetime, averaging about 0.5 cubs/year during their reproductive span (about 15 years). This combination of biological characteristics means that grizzly bears have little demographic resilience—the ability to maintain populations in the face of habitat loss and increased human-caused mortality.

For these reasons effects on grizzly bear habitat and populations have figured prominently in Alberta regulatory hearings on the cumulative effects of energy and recreational development proposals (Cheviot Coal Mine, West Castle Resort, Three Sisters Resort, and Whaleback Oil and Gas). The ESGBP began in 1994 in response to the need to provide scientifically sound, detailed information on the potential cumulative effects of different proposed developments and activities on grizzly bears in the CRE. The grizzlies’ low resilience makes them a sensitive indicator species of possible development effects on many terrestrial mammals.

Because of the large home ranges and linear movements of grizzly bears across jurisdictional boundaries the ESGBP focuses on a large region. The CRE is about 40,000 sq. km., mostly in Alberta and including the Bow River drainage, north to the Saskatchewan River, south to the Oldman River, east as far as grizzlies roam, and west to the Columbia Trench in British Columbia.

ORGANIZATION/OBJECTIVES:

The ESBGP is a research, policy formation, and management project guided by a steering committee whose objectives are to: 1) review and suggest strategic direction for research and encourage a research-based understanding of grizzly bear biology and ecology in selected portions of the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, 2) help focus research efforts on the cumulative effects of regional land use and mortality factors on grizzly bears, 3) provide a forum for various stakeholders to discuss land-use planning issues as they relate to grizzly bears, 4) help secure funding and other forms of agency support, 5) coordinate public outreach initiatives and 6) contribute to the conservation of grizzly bear populations and their habitat in the Eastern Slopes.

Membership in the ESGBP consists of a selection of representatives from various groups that have either jurisdiction, resource harvest activities or potential, or other interests regarding occupied grizzly bear habitat in the CRE. Three primary societal sectors have overlapping, mutually supportive interests in the ESGBP (Figure 1). The principal participants are Parks Canada, conservation groups, the Province of Alberta (Energy and Utilities Board, Fish and Wildlife Division, Lands and Forest Service, and Kananaskis Country), the University of Calgary, and various industries: oil and gas, transportation, forestry, land development, and cattle production. There are numerous minor supporters as well. All steering committee participants contribute either money, time or both toward the objectives. The group meets about four times a year. The unique structure of the ESGBP is itself an important conservation experiment.

Figure 1 – The Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project Responds to Common Interests of Three Societal Elements.

During meetings, research findings and strategic directions are discussed along with budget needs to further the committee’s objectives. The group serves as a focal point for fundraising activities to support the Project. Significant development proposals and activities are discussed in light of their potential cumulative effects regarding grizzly bears and their habitat.

Students and staff of the University of Calgary carry out research. Contributions to this project are tax deductible because they support independent research. There are six graduate student research projects embedded in the ESGBP. Stephen Herrero is the supervisor for each of them. Each project is designed in a hypothesis-testing context. See for example the recently completed thesis by Bryon Benn on grizzly bear mortality in the CRE. The broad objectives of ESGBP research are to contribute scientifically sound knowledge of grizzly bear habitat, vital rates (all biological parameters that affect population status and dynamics), grizzly bear response to development and human activities, and grizzly bear and ecosystem conservation (see Planned and Completed Activities for more detail).

PLANNED AND COMPLETED ACTIVITIES:

As mentioned six graduate student research projects form most of the ESGBP research which is now beginning year 6. Mike Gibeau, Ph.D. candidate, has primary responsibility for our grizzly bear capture, radio-marking and monitoring program. The primary objectives of his research are to document grizzly bear response to development features and people’s activities. He also is collecting data on vital rates (age and sex specific survivorship, births, deaths, recruitment, interval between births, etc.) of approximately 25 adult grizzly bears per year. We have responsibility for analyzing population data. One of our primary objectives is to be able to estimate lambda, the intrinsic growth rate of the population. This will tell us, in a scientifically defensible manner, with confidence limits, whether the regional population is increasing or decreasing. To do this will require at least 100 reproductive years of data on adult female grizzly bears. To date we have data for about 70 reproductive years. Mike is also developing and testing a pseudo-habitat map based on Landsat TM “greenness” spectral bands.

Jenny Theberge, Ph.D. candidate, has collected detailed field data on the characteristics of habitat used by adult female grizzly bears. In addition to the data she has collected, she will be using all ESGBP data on adult females. Her objective is to define at several spatial scales the landscape characteristics that contribute to productive adult female grizzly bear home ranges. She will be identifying what environmental variables characterize areas where grizzly bear females successfully produce cubs.

Bryon Benn has just completed a Master’s thesis analyzing 25 years of grizzly bear mortality data (639 mortalities) in the CRE. His principle findings are very important: 1) mortality appears to have been sustainable on Alberta managed lands in our study area south of the Bow River, but not north, 2) access is a very strong predictor of the probability of grizzly bear mortality, 3) in Banff National Park for the past ten years mortality has been primarily to female grizzly bears—where it is least desirable from a population perspective. These findings need to be additionally analyzed and prepared for scientific publication.

John Kansas, Master’s candidate, has primary responsibility for representing our current understanding of grizzly bear habitat quality, quantity and distribution based on vegetation mapping at a variety of spatial scales. Several thousand full vegetation plots sampling the study area vegetation form the basis for interpreting and classifying various remote sensing data and other map products.

Karen Oldershaw, Master’s candidate, has been working in the Etherington/Cataract, and Smith Dorrien areas of Kananaskis Country, analyzing the relationship between different forest harvest practices and the provision of cover for grizzly bears at different periods post harvest.

Cedar Mueller, Master’s candidate, is focusing her research on the sub-adult cohort of grizzly bears and is working to identify landscape conditions that are correlated with acceptable human-caused mortality.

All graduate students currently have either approved research proposals or they have graduated (Bryon Benn).

A major research initiative of Stephen Herrero is to use all of our data on population vital rates and habitat to construct an integrated Population and Habitat Viability Assessment (PHVA). Here we especially want to link fecundity and mortality risk with landscape conditions. Toward this end, in January 1999, we held a major workshop bringing together leaders in this field. Our existing data were scrutinized and analyzed by independent experts. With their help we are defining the models that will best allow us to link habitat and population conditions with socioeconomic data, to analyze the sustainability of our grizzly bear population, and to identify and hopefully help to manage significant threats. A major, but preliminary, assessment of PHVA will be one of our objectives for year 6 of our research.

Another significant planned activity is to continue and strengthen ESGBP linkages with conservation and recreation groups, governments, business and industry, and the public. We will maintain the steering committee with its stakeholder representation. To understand, and if necessary, manage the effects of proposed or approved development, we will continue to provide data, analysis and comment for various planning processes such as the recreational plan for Kananaskis Country. We will monitor impacts and the success or failure of mitigation and advise on improvement. We will also support outreach initiatives such as major improvement to our website (www.canadianrockies.net/grizzly), speaking engagements, open houses, etc.

MAJOR FINDINGS:

  • Based on a telemetry data set of 7380 locations, and a “capture/recapture hair-snagging study,” grizzly bears in the CRE occur at low population densities (1/50-100sq.km.); they have large home ranges (males average 1172 sq. km., females 277- –based on 99% minimum convex polygon method). Note these findings are preliminary.
  • Estimates of reproductive parameters based on 5 years of data show low productivity, probably based on the biological limitations of the remaining habitat: age of first reproduction 6.8, inter-litter interval 4.0, average litter size 1.9.
  • Grizzly bear mortality in the CRE 1971-1996 was 639 known deaths. 627 of these were human-caused. Grizzly bears spend significant time each year in lower elevation valley systems. These are where trails and roads are usually located. 85% of 462 human-caused grizzly bear deaths with known locations occurred within 500m of a road or development, or within 200 m of a trail.
  • The foregoing points suggest the population has little demographic resilience. Therefore human-caused mortality in the adult female cohort must be kept at about 1-2% of the population, or possibly fecundity could be increased.
  • Access management, conservative-hunting takes (where hunting is permitted), and garbage management continue to be keys to mortality management and grizzly bear conservation.
  • Most of the CRE is mountainous. Grizzly bear habitat is patchy and exists primarily in valley bottoms and mountain slopes up to 2500m. These characteristics have produced a naturally fragmented landscape. Human activities are also concentrated in valley bottoms. This adds further to grizzly bear habitat and population fragmentation.
  • One concrete measure of habitat fragmentation is habitat security. We applied a minimum daily foraging area estimate of 9.0 sq. km. to define the minimum area needed to meet an adult female’s daily needs. Female bears residing within Banff National Park averaged only 60% security within their home ranges. This was well below targets of 68% developed for Bear Management Units in western Montana.
  • Another indication of habitat and population fragmentation is that after 5 years of intensive study of about 15 adult female grizzly bears each year, none have been documented to have crossed any 4 lane portion of the Trans-Canada Highway. Males occasionally cross. We are investigating genetic implications. We continue to monitor grizzly bears to see if various under and overpasses are working for this species.
  • By placing the research under the guidance of an interdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder group representing most stakeholder sectors in the CRE, we have created a relatively open forum linking grizzly bear needs with the needs and wants of human society.
  • 1519 detailed vegetation plots have been completed as a basis for developing and truthing grizzly bear habitat maps. Several thousand more are available from Parks Canada. We are using Landsat TM to give a common map base across jurisdictional boundaries. A pseudo-habitat map based on “greenness” is near completion. Our next step is to develop a 15-20 class habitat map based on our vegetation information and TM imagery. These habitat maps will be invaluable in understanding the relationships between habitat use, as indicated by radio-telemetry, and habitat quality, security, effectiveness, and other landscape parameters.

MAJOR APPLICATIONS:

Because the ESGBP represents a unique partnership between diverse stakeholders, including those having management jurisdiction for grizzly bears, we have had significant success in seeing the implications of our most important preliminary research findings translated into policy and management actions. This process will continue if we are supported.

Significantly in response to our major report on the population and habitat status of grizzly bears done for the Banff-Bow Valley Study Task Force, the following specific objectives were put into the 1997 Banff National Park Management Plan:

  • “Restoring habitat, mitigating the impact of human activities and facilities, and reducing human-caused mortality will contribute to the on-going viability of sensitive species such as grizzly bear, wolf, wolverine and cougar (Parks Canada 1997: p.10).”
  • “To maintain and restore secure habitat in the park and on surrounding lands for carnivores that are not habituated to humans (Parks Canada 1997: p.21).”
  • “To reduce the number of grizzly bears killed as a result of human activity to less than 1% of the population annually (Parks Canada 1997: p.21).” (My comment…this means that on average less than one grizzly bear will be killed/removed from the entire park population each year.)
  • “Adopt a human use management program that will restore secure habitat for carnivores and ensure the maintenance of viable populations of wary species such as grizzly bear, wolf, wolverine and cougar (Parks Canada 1997: p. 22).”
  • “(Habitat effectiveness) targets have been established for each CMU (Carnivore Management Unit) based on the potential for improved habitat effectiveness and visitor experience considerations…(Parks Canada 1997: p.42).”
  • “Human use management will be based on the desired effectiveness of each Carnivore Management Unit (CMU)…Recommendations for human use management will be based on research (Parks Canada 1997: p.43).”
  • “The precautionary principle will apply when the potential consequences are uncertain (Parks Canada 1997: p.43).”
  • “A special focus on securing effective habitat for grizzly bears, wolves and lynx -key indicator species- will serve to benefit about 98% of the other terrestrial wildlife and the park as well (Parks Canada 1997: p. 82).”

The foregoing policy direction is clear and reasonably quantitative. It has already significantly improved management of grizzly bear mortality and habitat.

We prepared a similar major report on the population and habitat status of grizzly bears in Kananaskis Country and submitted this as part of the recreational planning process for Kananaskis Country. Our findings related to habitat fragmentation provided strong support for the decision to not allow more large scale development (except possibly during the next year).

To help mitigate the effects of two major resource extraction projects in the CRE we shared our data with developers and the public. This resulted in the Husky/Rigel Moose Mountain oil and gas development, and the Spray Lakes Sawmills McLean Creek project, being more grizzly bear friendly than they would have been without our data.

Our multi-jurisdictional, multi-stakeholder project organization has served as a model influencing ongoing organization of grizzly bear research and management in various portions of the Y2Y area such as the Yellowhead region of Alberta, the Muskwa-Kechika region of north eastern BC, and the Kluane National Park region of the Yukon.

CONSERVATION SIGNIFICANCE:

The ESGBP has made a significant contribution toward maintaining grizzly bears throughout the CRE. This is one of the most developed, and heavily used landscapes in North America where grizzly bears still survive. As a result of our research findings, and our cooperative relationship with stakeholders, grizzly bear mortality has been reduced and some important habitat is becoming more secure. The landscape conditions that will support grizzly bears will also support most other sensitive species of carnivores.

We have identified a major habitat/population fragmentation for adult female grizzly bears caused by them not crossing the 4-laned Trans-Canada Highway. The maternal genome is unique. The population consequences are not clear at this time. We will continue to study this and to monitor the effects of various mitigation measures.

Our multi-stakeholder, multi-jurisdictional Steering Committee has created significant opportunity to have the implications of our research results incorporated into policy and management actions. We have made our research findings readily available to the public through our website, papers, reports, public events, and television documentaries.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

We of the ESGBP have worked hard to get the project to where we are. We are poised to take full advantage of the research base, knowledge, and partner relationships we have built during the first five years. This is Alberta’s only long term study of grizzly bears. Certain questions require multiple years to get scientifically sound answers, and to prepare data for scientific scrutiny. It will take us 7 or 8 years before we have 100 reproductive years of data on adult females. With this amount of data we can use the statistical technique of bootstrapping to calculate the intrinsic growth rate (lambda) of the population as previously described. This will answer the important question of whether the population has been increasing or decreasing, and at what rate, during our study. The intrinsic growth rate is more important to know for management because it is more statistically robust than are point population estimates for grizzly bears. We will also provide detailed data on other population parameters to assist wildlife managers in settling total man-caused mortality targets.

As important as the data we collect are the relationships we have built. These are with federal and provincial government, business and industry, and recreation and conservation groups. We regard the Steering Committee for the ESGBP to be a model forum for the exchange of information and ideas regarding grizzly bear ecology and management in an industrializing and recreationally used landscape. We stand poised to enter into adaptive management scenarios for various human uses, and to be able to predict and hopefully manage cumulative effects.

1997 Annual Report


Gibeau, Michael L. and Stephen Herrero. 1998. Eastern slopes grizzly bear project: A progress report for 1997. Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta.

Note: The full text of this paper is displayed below. You also have the option of downloading a PDF version.

Prepared for the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Steering Committee

This paper contains preliminary results of an on-going study and should not be cited without permission from the authors.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

Project Background

Project Origins

Project Organization and Budget

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

STUDY AREA

METHODS

RESULTS

Population Studies

Capture

Telemetry Data Set

Population Demographics

Population Estimate

Critique

LITERATURE CITED

LIST OF TABLES

Table 1. Grizzly bear capture data in the Bow River Watershed, Alberta, 1997

Table 2. Grizzly bear trapping success in the Bow River Watershed, Alberta, 1997.

Table 3. Status of all grizzly bears captured in the Bow River Watershed, Alberta, as of December 1997.

Table 4. Unduplicated grizzly bear females with cubs of the year in the Bow River Watershed, Alberta, 1993 through 1997.

Table 5. Reproductive status of known female grizzly bears in the Bow River Watershed, Alberta, 1997.

Table 6. Summary of grizzly bear mortalities in the Bow River Watershed, Alberta, 1993 through 1997.

Table 7. Summary of grizzly bear translocations in the Bow River Watershed, Alberta, 1993 through 1997.

INTRODUCTION

Project Background

Several hundred years ago grizzly bears lived throughout much of what is now the province of Alberta. Today a historically estimated population of approximately 6000 individuals (Herrero unpublished data), has decreased to an estimated 600 grizzly bears on provincial land and another 200 within federal national parks (Nagy and Gunson 1990). Grizzly bears have declined in Alberta because of mortality in excess of recruitment and because people have occupied and developed land which once supported the bears and less industrialized people.

Grizzly bears are recognized in Alberta as one of the principle species that indicates wilderness –large scale landscapes in a relatively natural state, the raw material out of which our culture was, and is still being created. Now, however, the last remaining unprotected wildland areas in Alberta are being modified by industrial and recreational activity. Because Albertans value nature and wildlife in addition to economic development, there is an urgent need to understand the impacts of human-caused mortality and land use on grizzly bears, and to target mortality rates and habitat protection and management that will allow for grizzly bear persistence. This direction is supported by the Grizzly Bear Management Plan of Alberta which states that the provincial population will be increased to 1000 (Nagy and Gunson 1990). It is also consistent with National Park management objectives for ecological integrity as set by the National Parks Act and Policy (1988).

On the Eastern Slopes in Alberta grizzly bears occur at relatively low population densities, only one bear for each 60-100 km2. Male grizzlies have lifetime home ranges of approximately 1000-2000 km 2 (Russell et al. 1979, Carr 1989). Females do not begin breeding until they are 4-7 years old and then they produce significantly less than one cub per year. Because of these biological characteristics grizzly bears recover slowly if at all from population declines, and only if negative mortality factors have been brought under control (Mattson et al. 1996). These and other biological characteristics are part of the reason why human activities can have such a significant impact on grizzly bears.

Alberta has an expanding economy based significantly on the development of natural resources such as agriculture, oil and gas, forestry, and nature-based tourism. Individual grizzly bears, owing to their large home ranges, may come into contact with all of these activities. Research based in Yoho and Kootenay national parks showed that individual grizzly bears may enter four different management jurisdictions in a year (Raine and Riddell 1991). Whether land is managed as parks, commercial forests, or privately, management practices must respond to the grizzlies needs if these bears are to survive. There is an urgent need for scientific data on grizzly bears to help land managers better understand the affects of human activities on grizzly bears.

Project Origins (this section is quoted extensively from Herrero et al. (In Press)

The Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project (ESGBP) formally began in May 1994. Neither the project, nor its membership, were formally designated by any group or agency. The Project and its members evolved from a number of different origins. An understanding of these helps in defining the nature of the Project.

First, were changes in legislation and policy at both the Federal and the Provincial levels. In 1988 the Government of Canada amended the National Parks Act. Changes included a recognition that ecological integrity was the primary objective of national park management. In this context, the grizzly bear is recognized as one of the most sensitive ecosystem elements, meaning they are difficult to maintain in landscapes that have a lot of human activities. Where grizzly bears exist, they are an indicator of ecological integrity. Parks Canada thus had new reason to be concerned about the status of grizzly bears, especially in national parks such as Banff which is part of one of the most developed landscapes where grizzly bears still survive. This legislative change was reflected in a re-written Parks Canada policy document that recognized the need for multi-agency approaches to parks management. Again, the grizzly bear with its wide-ranging movements across jurisdictional borders, became a focal species in trying to address multi-agency dimensions of parks management.

In 1992 the Federal government enacted the Canadain Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) which broadened the scope of traditional environmental assessment to consider the cumulative effects of developments at a landscape scale. The following year (1993) the Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA) passed which also included a provision for assessing the cumulative impacts of development proposals. The need to consider cumulative effects in evaluating development proposals has been highlighted in the review of several major project proposals for the Eastern Slopes of Alberta: the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB)(now the Energy and Utilities Board – EUB) highlighted the need for cumulative effects assessment (CEA) in its review of AMOCO’s proposal to drill an exploratory well in the Whaleback region (ERCB 1994); the Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) which was established to function similarly to the ERCB, but with regard to large, proposed recreational developments, indicated the need for CEA in its review of the Three Sisters Resort Proposal and the Westcastle Resort Proposal (NRCB 1993a, 1993b). In all these reviews grizzly bears, because of their regional movements and ecological relationships, and because of their sensitivity to development, became a focal species for cumulative effects assessment.

The second major element in the origin of the ESGBP was new information regarding the status of grizzly bears in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and elsewhere in Alberta. In 1990 the province of Alberta released its grizzly bear management plan (Nagy and Gunson 1990). This document clearly showed not only historic declines of grizzly bears in the province, but major over hunting, especially during 1980-1988. This launched the province into a limited entry system for managing hunting. It revealed how subject grizzly bear populations are to excessive mortality, not just from hunting but from all sources. This documented excessive mortality, combined with rapid expansion in resource harvesting activities in the province, was important in raising Alberta Fish and Wildlife’s concern for grizzly bears.

In the national parks new information also clearly documented the need for interagency management of grizzly bears. Research had shown that grizzly bears in the Canadian Rocky Mountain National Parks moved freely and extensively across park borders and that mortality outside of park borders was a significant issue (Russell et al. 1979, Raine and Riddell 1991). Herrero (1995) showed that Canadian National Park grizzly bear populations by themselves were probably all too small for a high probability of long term persistence, and therefore integrated management with surrounding provincial or territorial lands would be required. Within the boundaries of Banff , Yoho and Kootenay National Parks research by Gibeau (In press) showed that habitat effectiveness was significantly compromised by development. More recent research documents that grizzly bear populations in Banff Park have suffered exceptionally high mortality for a national park (Gibeau et al. 1996).

The third factor that led to formation of the ESGBP was growing awareness of the discipline of conservation biology. This is a discipline with the objective of using scientific information to help maintain biological diversity. Many of the principles of conservation biology focus on the design of systems of environmental reserves along ecological boundaries that most often cross jurisdictional divisions (Noss and Cooperrider 1994). Within conservation biology large-bodied mammalian carnivores such as the grizzly bear are often used as indicator and umbrella species (see August 1996 issue of the journal Conservation Biology). By maintaining the large carnivores we will also maintain a significant degree of terrestrial regional ecological integrity.

The ESGBP was a product of the foregoing series of societal level influences plus many others that have not been mentioned. Like most projects this one responded to a need perceived by many different individuals and institutions, sometimes for different reasons. By joining in a cooperative endeavor and pooling resources a major project was launched.

Project Organization and Budget

The ESBGP is an informal association of participants organized into a steering committee whose objectives are to: 1) review and suggest strategic direction for research and encourage a research-based understanding of grizzly bear biology and ecology in selected portions of the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, 2) help focus research efforts on the cumulative effects of regional land use and mortality factors on grizzly bears, 3) provide a forum for various stakeholders to discuss land use planning issues as they relate to grizzly bears, 4) help secure funding and other forms of agency support, 5) coordinate public outreach initiatives and 6) contribute to the conservation of grizzly bear populations and their habitat in the Eastern Slopes.

All steering committee participants contribute either money, time or both toward the objectives. The group, meets about 4 times a year. It has a chair who was elected from a core organizing group. Membership currently consists of a selection of representatives from various groups that have either jurisdiction, resource harvest activities or potential, or other interests regarding occupied grizzly bear habitat in the Eastern Slopes of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. The principal participants are Parks Canada, the Province of Alberta (Energy and Utilities Board, Fish and Wildlife Division, Lands and Forest Service, and Kananaskis Country), the University of Calgary, conservation groups, the oil and gas industry, the forest products industry, the land development industry and the cattle industry. There are numerous minor supporters as well, but most do not have direct representation on the Steering Committee.

During meetings research findings and strategic directions are discussed along with budget needs to further the committees objectives. The group serves as a focal point for fund raising activities to support the Project. Significant development proposals and activities are discussed in light of their potential cumulative effects regarding grizzly bears and their habitat.

During the period of 1994-1997 the ESGBP was been successful in raising over $1,450,000 to support the research. Sources for this funding have been: Parks Canada 46%, oil and gas industry 34%, Alberta Government 11%, other research grants 4%, forest industry 3%, conservation groups 1%, and land development industry (Herrero and Herrero 1996). Contributions to this project are tax deductible because they go to support independent research by the University of Calgary.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

A very successful forth field season would not have been possible without the dedication of field biologists B. Benn, M. Jalkotzy, C. Mamo, C. Mueller, J. Paczkowski, I. Ross, J. Saher, S. Stevens, S. Stotyn, and M. Urquhart. Their efforts were augmented through the largely volunteer support of C. Campbell, P. Hoffer, and M. Morrow. Assistance in coordination of field staff was provided by A. Dibb, S. Donelon and T. Hurd. Trapping was conducted by R. Leblanc, C. Mamo, and I. Ross. Veterinary care was provided by Dr. Todd Shury. Several Alberta Fish and Wildlife Officers, Banff National Park Wardens and Peter Lougheed Park Rangers all provided invaluable safety backup and field assistance during trapping. The Banff Park Warden Service and Kananaskis Country Park Rangers provided logistical support through all stages of monitoring. Exemplary flying skills were provided by Alpine Helicopters of Canmore and fixed wing pilot M. Dupuis of Westpoint Aviation.

The Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Steering Committee helped implement and guided this research. All steering committee participants contribute either money, time or both toward the objectives. Through the Steering Committee, governments, industry, business and conservation groups work together to support this project. The supporters include:

Alberta Conservation Assoc.

Alberta Cattle Commission

Alberta Energy Utilities Board

Alberta Fish and Wildlife Service

Alberta Kananaskis Country

Alberta Lands and Forest Service

Alberta Provincial Parks

Alpine Helicopters

AMOCO Canada Petroleum Co. Ltd.

Bow Valley Naturalists

Calgary Zoological Society

Canadian Assoc. of Petroleum Producers

Canadian Parks & Wilderness Soc.

Canmore Collegiate High School

Human Resources Canada

Husky Oil

Parks Canada, BNP & AB Region

Shell Canada Ltd.

Sking Louise Ltd.

Spray Lakes Sawmills

Springbank Middle School

Three Sisters Resorts Inc.

University Of Calgary

Warner Guiding and Outfitting Ltd.

Wilderness Medical Society

World Wildlife Fund Canada

GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

Prior to the ESGBP, little research has focused on the effects of non-motorized tourism oriented activities on bears. One of our principle research questions is how do grizzly bear’s spatial and temporal use patterns differ in areas of high human presence compared to areas with low human presence in a landscape, some of which is dominated by tourism activities? Our situation is unique in that few other grizzly bear study areas in North America have both a high volume transcontentinal highway and railway bisecting occupied grizzly bear habitat along with intensive tourism. Analysis has never been done on the effects of such levels of human presence on grizzly bears. One important question is the extent to which the Bow River Valley continues to function as a major movement corridor for bears providing connectivity between habitats. Unregulated human access and development within bear habitat can contribute to increased bear mortality and affect grizzly bear use of existing habitat.

The overall goal of this research is to understand how developments and human-induced mortality impact grizzly bears. Specific research objectives include:

1.Determine the basic demographic parameters for the grizzly bear population within the study area.

2. Detect spatial and temporal activity patterns of bears given various levels of human influences.

3. Determine how the distribution of human influences affects a bear’s ability to use the landscape.

4. Determine if population connectivity is being impeded by major transportation corridors.

5. Determine what, if any adjustments to human activities would give bears better access to resources.

6. Suggest management alternatives for integrating land uses compatible with bear habitat needs for the study area.

STUDY AREA

The area of interest remains unchanged from year 1 with the Bow River Watershed, from its headwaters to approximately where it meets the prairies, as the core study area. The Bow River drainage system is approximately 11,400 km2. The greater study area defined by the movement of radio-collared bears is about 22,000 km2 or roughly twice the size of the core study area.

METHODS

Methods for both the capture and monitoring of bears remain unchanged from the detailed description found in the year 1 progress report (Gibeau and Herrero 1995). Approximately 25 grizzly bears per year have active radio-collars. These bears are monitored from air and ground wherever they go and our budget permits. Aerial monitoring gives infrequent, but relatively unbiased data regarding location. This facilitates understanding of home range, movements and habitat use. Ground-based research allows intensive monitoring of grizzly bear activities related to development features such as towns, highways, campgrounds and trails. Mortality is monitored using both aerial and ground-based telemetry, and by accessing and creating broader mortality data bases related to hunting and other human-induced mortality sources. The radio-telemetry monitoring area includes lands under several different jurisdictions. In the British Columbia portion of these lands, where some of our radio-collared grizzly bears are found, there is a Western Slopes Bear Research Project (Woods pers. comm.) which provides complementary data and will allow a broader ecosystem versus provincial boundary-based understanding of grizzly bears in what has been called the Central Rockies Ecosystem (Komex International 1995).

RESULTS

Population Studies

Capture

In 1997 emphasis was placed on recapturing bears whose transmitters were due for replacement. We recaptured six previously captured bears as well as 12 new bears (Table 1). Trap success was high averaging 7.2 site nights per capture (Table 2).

Since the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project began in May of 1994, we have captured 25 male and 28 female grizzly bears. Currently, 26 bears are radio-instrumented including 8 males, 18 females (Table 3). Of the remainder, 10 bears have died, 14 have dropped collars or stopped transmitting, 1 was removed from the system, and 2 were never collared initially.

Table 1. Grizzly bear capture data in the Bow River Watershed, Alberta, 1997.

ID

Sex

Age Estimate

Weight (kg)

Area

Comments

10

M

16a*

170 est.

Bow Valley

recapture

13

M

8a

122.

Kananaskis

recapture

15

M

9a

150 est.

Cascade R.

recapture

30

F

12a

80

Lake Louise

recapture

35

F

5a

86

Kananaskis

recapture

42

M

9a

116

Spray R.

recapture

51

M

8a

147

Baker Cr.

 

52

M

7b

135 est.

Highwood R.

 

53

M

3a

80

Highwood R.

 

54

M

15a

190

Banff

 

55

F

6a

98

Cascade R.

 

56

F

3a

44

Lake Louise

cub of Bear #30

57

F

5a

130 est.

Highwood R.

 

58

M

9a

190 est.

Cascade R.

 

59

F

3a

39

Lake Louise

cub of Bear #30

60

F

3a

46

Lake Louise

cub of Bear #30

61

F

12a

103

Spray R.

 

62

F

8a

103

Cascade R.

* certainty code a= +/- 0 years, b= +/- 1-2 years, c= +/- 2-3 years

Table 2. Grizzly bear trapping success in the Bow River Watershed, Alberta, 1997.

Area

Total Site Nights

Total Grizzly

Total Black

Total Captures

Site Nights / Capture

Mid Bow R.

15

1

0

1

15.0

Kananaskis

65

2

5

7

9.3

Spray R.

49

4

4

8

6.1

Cascade R.

13

4

0

4

3.3

Lake Louise

25

5

1

6

4.2

Highwood R.

22

3

1

4

5.5

 

189

18a

11

29

7.2

ID

Sex

Age at 1st capture

Date 1st captured

Current status

No of radio

relocations

10

M

13 a*

05/07/94

active

290

11

M

4 b

05/17/94

unknown – drop collar 07/97

49

12

M

13 b

05/19/94

dead – 10/04/94

14

13

M

5 a

05/25/94

active

363

14

M

9 a

05/29/94

active – no signal 05/97

49

15

M

6 a

05/20/94

active

225

16

M

5 a

08/16/93

removed to zoo 07/05/96

169

17

F

10 a

06/02/94

unknown – drop collar 07/96

103

18

F

6 a

05/30/94

active

84

19

M

6 b

05/13/94

dead – 05/14/94

1

20

M

11 a

05/14/94

unknown – drop collar 08/94

8

21

M

3 a

05/21/94

dead – 07/26/95

3

22

M

14 a

05/21/94

dead – 05/28/94

2

23

M

3 a

05/28/94

dead – 08/08/96

75

24

F

5 a

05/31/94

active

373

25

M

6 a

05/31/94

unknown – drop collar 09/94

15

26

F

18 a

06/08/94

active

345

27

F

2 a

06/13/94

unknown – no signal 04/96

35

28

F

22 a

06/08/94

dead – 08/24/96

72

29

M

2 a

06/13/94

unknown – never collared

1

30

F

9 a

09/28/94

active

751

31

F

7 c

06/25/94

unknown – drop collar 05/96

120

32

F

13 b

06/04/94

unknown – drop collar 10/97

156

33

F

19 a

06/14/94

active

219

34

M

6a

05/17/95

unknown – no signal 05/97

54

35

F

4a

05/17/96

dead – 09/20/97

186

36

F

8a

06/23/93

active

192

37

F

10 a

06/27/94

active

228

38

M

1 a

06/27/94

unknown – never collared

8

39

F

3a

05/10/95

unknown – no signal 08/96

105

40

F

15c

05/15/95

active

296

41

F

12a

05/28/95

active

54

42

M

7a

05/30/95

active

38

43

M

5a

05/24/96

dead – 10/10/96

11

44

M

4a

06/13/95

dead – 08/23/96

27

45

M

1a

06/15/95

active – no signal 05/97

2

46

F

11a

06/15/95

active

202

47

F

9a

06/02/96

active

137

48

F

2a

06/02/96

unknown – no signal 09/97

14

49

M

2a

06/02/96

unknown – no signal 08/97

17

50

M

4a

06/17/96

unknown – no signal 06/96

2

51

M

8a

05/23/97

active

16

52

M

7b

05/16/97

active

15

53

M

3a

05/15/97

active

23

54

M

15a

06/03/97

active

26

55

F

6a

06/07/97

active

12

56

F

3a

05/28/97

active

4

57

F

5a

05/17/97

active

17

58

M

9a

06/08/97

dead – 09/23/97

5

59

F

3a

05/28/97

active

4

60

F

3a

05/28/97

active

4

61

F

12a

06/11/97

active

72

62

F

8a

06/12/97

active

22

* certainty code a= +/- 0 years, b= +/- 1-2 years, c= +/- 2-3 years

Telemetry Data Set

Aerial and ground monitoring from the mid-March until the first week of December produced 1571 point locations for the 1997 field season. Of these 404 (25%) were from the air and 1167 (75%) from ground monitoring. Aerial locations were biased toward early morning hours. One hundred and seventy eight aerial locations were visual observations. Sightability was higher from the air (44%) than from the ground (9%). Table 3 outlines the number of telemetry points for each individual from project initiation to December 1997.

Population Demographics

Observations from the research team as well as records from Banff National Park, Kananaskis Country Rangers and Alberta Fish and Wildlife Services established a minimum unduplicated count of 2 females with cubs of the year for 1997 in the study area (Table 4). No radio-collared females had cubs of the year during 1997. Over time, a minimum count of sows with cubs can be established and used as a trend indicator (Knight et al. 1995).

Table 4. Unduplicated grizzly bear females with cubs of the year in the Bow River Watershed, Alberta, 1993 through 1997.

Family

Identification

Most Cubs Observed

Location

# of

Sightings

A – 1993

1

Bryant Creek

2

B – 1993

2

Fatigue Creek

1

C – 1993

2

Moraine Lake

1

D – 1993

2

Cascade River

1

E – 1993

2

Elbow R. / Nahahi Ridge

3

F – 1993

2

Kananaskis Lakes

4

A – 1994

2

Lower Cascade River

1

B – 1994

1

Moose Mtn. / Elbow R.

2

C – 1994

2

Mt. Indefatigable

4

D – 1994

1

Bryant Cr. / Mt. Nestor

2

Bear #28 1994

1

Upper Cascade River

2

Bear #30 1994

3

Baker Lake / Pipestone R.

5

Bear #36 1994

1

Upper Bow River

2

A – 1995

2

West Bragg Cr / Powderface

3

B – 1995

2

Skogan Pass / Wasootch

3

C – 1995

2

Upper Spray / Albert R.

3

Bear #17 1995

1

Cascade River

13

Bear #18 1995

3

Bryant Cr. / Assiniboine

10

Bear #26 1995

2

Nakiska / Evans Thomas

6

Bear #31 1995

2

Highwood River

3

Bear #32 1995

3

Forty Mile Cr. / Elk Lake

12

Bear #33 1995

3

Cascade River / Stoney Cr.

14

A – 1996

1

Cascade R. / Grassy Ridge

1

B – 1996

3

Mid Spray River

1

Bear #24 1996

2

Highwood Pass

25

Bear #36 1996

2

Upper Bow River

8

Bear #37 1996

2

Elbow / Sheep Rivers

3

A – 1997

2

Wind Valley

2

B – 1997

3

Elbow Lakes

2

Reproductive success of radio collared females was determined through visual observation during the spring and summer of 1997 (Table 5). Reproductive data from collared females will eventually be used to construct an estimate of whether the sample population is increasing or decreasing. Before this can be done, data on at least 100 female reproductive years will be needed. Cub mortalities for the year are recorded in the comments. Year to year cub survivorship can be tracked by referring to tables from previous years and the reproductive status of any given female.

Table 5. Reproductive status of known female grizzly bears in the Bow River Watershed, Alberta, 1997.

Bear Identification

# of Cubs

Comments

18

2 two year olds

24

2 yearlings

26

0

1 yearling in 96

30

3 three year olds

family still together in Nov.

32

3 two year olds

family broke up early June

33

2 two year olds

family broke up early June

35

0

died Sept 97

36

1 yearling

37

1 yearling

2 yoy in fall of 96

40

0

41

0

46

2 three year olds

family still together in Nov.

47

2 three year olds

family broke up end of May

48

0

subadult

55

0

new capture

56

0

3 year old cub of bear #30

57

0

new capture

59

0

3 year old cub of bear #30

60

0

3 year old cub of bear #30

61

0

new capture

62

0

new capture

There were 3 known mortalities within the study area in 1997 (Table 6). One was an unmarked bear that was found many months after death, while the other 2 were radio collared study bears.

Table 6. Summary of grizzly bear mortalities in the Bow River Watershed, Alberta, 1993 through 1997.

Bear

Identification

Date

Location

Sex

Age

Kill Type

AFWS #21055a

08/19/93

West Spray-408b

M

3

PWc

Research #19

05/13/94

Kananaskis-648

M

6

AC

Research #22

05/28/94

Albert R.-B.C.

M

14

LH

AFWS #25161

09/29/94

Fortress Mt-408

M

Subadult

IL

Research #12

10/04/94

Simpson R.-B.C.

M

13

SD

Research #21

07/26/95

Elkford B.C.

M

4

PW

AFWS #25722

08/20/95

Sarcee Reserve

M

unkn

TI

investigate

fall 95

3 Point Cr.-406

?

unkn

IL

BNP L952104

09/25/95

Lake Louise

F

adult

PW

BNP L952104

09/25/95

Lake Louise

F

yly

PW

AFWS #34990

06/04/96

Morley

M

adult

TI

Research #44

08/23/96

Stoney Reserve

M

5

TI

Research #28

08/24/96

Cascade River

F

24

NA

Research #23

08/08/96

James River

M

5

PW

Research #43

10/10/96

Grease Creek

M

5

IL

BNP97-1567

fall 1996

Spray Lake

?

Subadult

?

Research #35

09/20/97

Evan Thomas Cr.

F

5

SD?

Research #58

09/23/97

James River

M

9

PW

a Registration or file number

b Wildlife Management Unit

c PW=problem wildlife, AC=accidental, LH=legal hunter, SD=self defense, NA=natural, TI=treaty Indian, IL=Illegal

Translocations accounted for removal of 1 bear from the study area in 1997 (Table 7). This bear was removed as a result of human food conditioning and associated public safety concerns. Shortly after translocation the bear began frequenting a campground in Jasper National Park and was subsequently destroyed.

Table 7. Summary of grizzly bear translocations in the Bow River Watershed, Alberta, 1993 through 1997.

Bear

Identification

Date

Translocation

Sex

Age

From To

AFWS #407801a

09/04/93

Canmore-410b Owl Crk-339

M

Subadult

Research #23

10/21/94

Sundre-318 Mitsue-350

M

3

B.C. GF75

09/26/95

Lake Louise Kinbasket L

F

9 & 1yly

Research #50

06/17/96

Canmore-410 Highwood-404

M

4

Research #16

07/05/96

Banff Calgary Zoo

M

8

AFWS#

0729/97

PLPP-648 Nordegg – 428

M

Subadult

aOccurance number

bWildlife Management Unit

Population Estimate

Mike Proctor undertook the analysis and reporting of our 1996 DNA hair sampling for population estimation. His report follows:

In an effort to estimate the density of grizzly bears in the East Slopes study area a DNA-based population estimate was undertaken in 1996. Details of this effort may be found in Sherry (1996) and entailed using microsatellite genotyping of individual bears as “marks” in a mark-recapture population estimate. Radio-collared bears, with known genotypes and known to be in the DNA study area, were considered marked animals and DNA sampling sessions were undertaken in an attempt to “recapture” these animals. Individual genotypes were generated from hair collected at remote sampling stations using barbed wire. During June and July 1996, the East Slopes team systematically collected bear hairs at 40 sampling stations over 4000km2 (2000km2 north of Hwy 1 in Banff National Park and 2000 km2 south of Hwy 1 in Kananaskis Country). Sampling stations were set 1 per cell (1 cell = 10km x 10km). Three consecutive sampling sessions were run for approximately 10 days each and the hair trap sites were moved each session within each cell. In 1296 active days of sampling 250 samples were collected of which 75 were grizzly bear. Fifty of these samples produced a usable DNA genotype identifying 15 different grizzlies. Twelve of these bears were new individuals and 3 were known as radio-collared bears. Of the 15 “DNA captured ” bears 5 were male, 5 female and 5 undetermined sex. Dr. Curtis Strobeck’s population genetics laboratory at the University of Alberta carried out the DNA analysis. While data was too sparse to generate a reliable precise estimate, a density of 1.4 grizzly bears/100 km2 was estimated based on Program NOREMARK (White 1995).

One of the biggest problems in mark-recapture experiments applied to bear studies is most population estimators require the assumption of closure during the sampling. Meeting this assumption is difficult because bears have relatively large movement patterns and will move in and out of the sampling area. Important in any mark-recapture effort is that animals have an equal probability of being captured and recaptured in subsequent sampling sessions. When a “marked” individual leaves the area during one of the sessions, it has no chance of being recaptured, thus introducing a positive bias or an overestimate of the population. This is because the estimators use the ratio of marked to unmarked animals caught in any session as the basis for the population estimate.

The use of radio-telemetry has potential to compensate for this lack of closure. Several methods have been described in the literature (Eberhardt 1990, Garshelis 1992, Miller et al. 1997). These methods require larger sample sizes than attained in this effort in the number of bears marked and recaptured. One estimator, the joint hypergeometric estimator (JHE) within program NOREMARK, is designed to incorporate telemetry data to compensate for lack of geographic closure. The JHE is a maximum likelihood estimator designed for mark – resight population estimates. A number of animals are “marked”, released, and several “resight” sessions follow. In the East Slopes case, the “marked” animals are the radio-collared animals known to be in the sampling area during each of 3 “resight” sessions. The subsequent hair-DNA capture sessions constitute these “resight” sessions.

The value of using the radio-collared bears for the marked sample is that only those bears known to be in the sampling area during each of 3 sessions are counted as the marked sample. This greatly reduces the positive bias associated with “edge effects” due to closure violations as only those marked animals available for resight are included in the calculations of the population estimate. Each of the 3 DNA sampling sessions has a set of marked animals even though the 3 sets may contain different combinations of radio-collared animals.

While 16 radio-collared bears frequented the area during this period, radio-locations determined that 12 individuals were in the sampling area during sessions 1 and 2, and 11 during session 3. The DNA “capture” results are summarized in Table 1. The NOREMARK population estimate is 57 animals in the 4000 km2 area which is a density of 1.4 bears per 100 km2. (Table 2).

Table 1. Summary of grizzly bear hair-DNA captures for 1996.

Session

Radio-Collared available

Marked captured

Unmarked captured

1

12

0

2

2

12

0

2

3

11

3

9

Program CAPTURE, an alternative method of estimating population and density was also used. Program CAPTURE has similar closure assumptions but no direct method of compensation for closure violations. Compensatory methods exist but require larger sample sizes to be effective (see comments above). Program Capture is a set of sophisticated population estimators designed to uncover violations of equal catchability assumptions, again requiring sufficient data not attained in this study. It was necessary to group the East Slopes data into 2 sessions with the radio-collared individuals as the marked animals in session 1 and all 3 DNA collections grouped together as session 2. To then adjust Program CAPTURE’s estimate for closure, the estimate was multiplied by the proportion of time the radio-collared animals spent in the study area over the collection period. This naive telemetry-adjusted estimate yields 46 animals with a density of 1.2 animals per 100 km2. (Table 2)

Table 2. Population and density estimates for the East Slopes 1996 grizzly bear population.

 

Estimate

95% CI

90%CI

NOREMARK population

57

29 – 201

31 -156

NOREMARK density

1.4 / 100 km2

0.7 – 5.0 / 100 km2

0.8 – 9/100 km2

CAPTURE (Mt Chao1)

67

40 – 154

 

Telemetry adjusted CAPTURE ( x 0.69

46

28 – 106

 

Adjusted density

 

1.2 /100 km2

0.7 – 2.7/100 km2

1 Mt Chao is one of 10 population estimator models within program CAPTURE. Data was too insufficient for proper model selection within the program. Mt Chao was chosen subjectively as it is the simpler Lincoln-Petersen estimator adjusted by Chao (1989) for sparse data sets (see Boulanger 1997a)

Several considerations are important when interpreting these results. First, is that the number of hair-DNA captures and resights was too low to inspire confidence in the estimates. The lack of precision is primarily due to low capture and recapture rates. Only 3 radio-collared bears were DNA captured in all 3 resight sessions. Sessions 1 and 2 caught only 2 bears each. These sparse data yield confidence limits of 300% to 400%. While the biological significance of these limits may be questionable, they indicate that to generate reliable results more captures and resights are required.

For a reasonably precise result White (1980) recommends:

a capture probability

p = 0.3

for populations under 100

 

p = 0.4 or 0.5

for populations near 50

 

p = 0.2

for populations over 200

This study realized a capture probability of 0.22 with an estimated population of approximately 50. The particularly low capture rates in Sessions 1 and 2 may have been due to unusually cold weather and therefore less attractive bait, as well as public safety constraints in placement of sample station locations may have contributed to the low result.

Closure violations generally result in overestimates, large variation in capture probabilities and imprecise estimates. While this effort used radio-collared bears to compensate for lack of closure, several problems remained unsolved. Do radio-collared bears visit hair traps with the same frequency as non radio-collared animals? In 1296 trap nights only 3 radio-collared animals were captured. While data is too sparse to adequately address this question, Boulanger (1997b) looked at a similar problem in the 1996 West Slopes Bear Research Project’s data where only 2 radio collared bears were DNA capture in 2653 trap nights. Boulanger concluded preliminarily that it is likely that capture probabilities of radio-collared bears is lower than non collared animals and that more definitive answers require better data potentially supplied by West Slope’s 1997 data. If radio-collared animals do indeed have a lower capture probability than non collared animals then the resight numbers would be low, resulting in an overestimate of the population.

Considering the program CAPTURE telemetry adjustment, using the radio-collared bears to estimate the proportion of time all bears spend in the study area is also problematic. Consider when 2 radio locations of 1 animal are separated by 7 days and the animal is located within the area but near the edge, the assumption is made that the bear was in the study area for the entire 7 days but it is possible that the animal left the area for some amount of time during this interval. The opposite is true for an edge bear found outside of the study area on 2 consecutive locations. In the East Slopes case the trapping of radio-collared animals occurred inside and outside of the DNA study area, diminishing the bias associated with collared animals over-representing the animals within the DNA study area.

Another concern is that the cell sizes may be too large to provide an equal opportunity for capture of some female bears with small seasonal home ranges. A test of this problem is being carried out in the West Slopes 1997 inventory effort. Cell sizes have been reduced to 25 km2 in an area that was sampled at 64 km2 in 1996. Results comparing the 2 years may indicate how much of a problem large cell sizes posed for the 1996 efforts in the East and West Slopes DNA inventories.

Furthermore, the habitat of the DNA sampling area is high quality for bears so extrapolation of densities must consider variations in habitat quality across the ecosystem.

Conclusions

The most important limitation of the DNA based population estimate is the low sample sizes. An estimate based on 3 resights of radio-collared animals should be considered unreliable.

While the use of radio telemetry holds great promise as a tool used in conjunction with DNA sampling, many questions remain unanswered. As many varied DNA-based grizzly bear inventories are being carried out in BC in 1996 and 1997, answers may be found within several years.

The East Slopes has a valuable bank of microsatellite genotyped individual grizzly bears. With the trapped radio-collared bears in the larger East Slope’s ecosystem and the DNA bears of 1996, approximately 74 bears have been identified. This genetic data will contribute to planned future work looking at the grizzly bear meta-population in SW Alberta and SE British Columbia, helping identify dispersal and gene flow patterns, population fragmentation, and linkage corridors.

References

Boulanger, J. 1997a. DNA mark-recapture methods for inventory of grizzly bear populations in British Columbia: Elk Valley (1996) case study. Ministry of Environment, Lands, and Parks, Wildlife Research Branch, Victoria, BC. 21 pp.

Boulanger, J. 1997b Preliminary report: Inference from bears radio-collared during the West Slopes 1996 DNA mark-recapture inventory project. West Slopes Bear Research Project. Revelstoke, BC.

Eberhardt, L. L. 1990. Mark recapture estimation for mark-recapture studies with edge effects. Journal of Applied Ecology, 27:259-271.

Garshelis, D. L. 1992. Mark recapture estimation for animals with large home ranges. In Wildlife 2001: Populations (eds D. R. McMullough and R. H. Barret), pp1098-1109. Elsevier, New York.

Miller, S.D., G.C. White, R.A. Sellers, H.V. Reynolds, J.W. Schoen, K. Titus, V.G.J. Barnes, R.B. Smith, R.R. Nelson, W.W. Ballard and C.C. Brown. 1997. Brown and black bear density estimation in Alaska using radiotelemetry and replicated mark-resight techniques. Wildlife Monograph No. 133. 55 pp.

Sherry, E. E. 1996. An Analysis of Methodologies for assessing Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) population. M.Sc. Thesis University of Kent. Canterbury. 155 pp.

White, G. C. 1995. Program NOREMARK Software Reference manual. Colorado State University. Fort Collins. 31 pp.

Critique

Population estimation is a complex enough subject that we felt a critique of Mike Proctor’s work was necessary. That report follows:

Review by John Boulanger, Integrated Ecological Research, Box 5360, Squamish BC. (604-892-2624)

The analysis of the East Slopes estimates by Mike Proctor provides a good coverage of issues concerning this data set and potential problems with population estimates.

I agree with Mike that the estimate of population size for the East Slopes is not completely reliable primarily because of low sample sizes and issues concerning the trappability of radio collared bears.

Two methods of estimation using CAPTURE (Otis et al., 1978) and NOREMARK (White, 1996) were proposed by Mike Proctor for population estimates. I will comment about the East Slopes estimates using these two methods in terms of the three primary design issues (White et al., 1982).

1) Closure:

a) DNA/CAPTURE estimate:

The frequency of occasions in which radio collared bears were in and out of the trapping area was used to adjust the estimate for closure bias (by .69). This adjustment factor of .69 is also an estimate based on assumptions (as Mike Proctor outlined) regarding the movement pattern of radio collared bears. Therefore, this adjustment factor also has a variance. I attempted to use a bootstrap technique to get at the potential variance of the adjustment factor with the West Slopes 1996 data and found the confidence interval on the West Slopes correction factor estimate of 73% to be 55.23% and 90.92%. Given that sample sizes were about equal between the East Slopes and West Slopes we can expect a similar confidence interval width. Therefore, the utility of this correction factor is not great given that the population estimate also has a large confidence interval width.

Also, this adjustment factor only accounts for the geographic bias caused by the grid sampling a larger area due to edge effects. It does not account for capture probability bias caused by closure violation.

b) Mark/resight estimate.

This technique uses the radio collared bears as the primary sample unit. Closure bias can be more exactly corrected because it is known whether these bears are in or out of the study area during the recapture process. Furthermore, the correction accounts more directly for capture probability bias due to closure violation because the capture frequencies of radioed bears are adjusted each sample session based on whether they were in or out of the grid. Therefore this method is superior to the DNA capture method.

2) Sample size: Both methods are compromised by low sample size. As a result the confidence intervals are quite large. In addition, it is not possible to discern potential capture probability variation. A value of using mark-recapture as opposed to census based methods is that an estimate of uncertainty can be calculated (confidence interval). While this may not give the most favorable results it is still better than blindly trusting a census or count estimate which has no estimate of confidence.

3) Capture probability variation. Low sample sizes made it difficult to determine if there is capture probability variation in this data set. Some general comments.

a) As mentioned by Mike Proctor, there is some concern that radio collared bears may show lower probabilities of capture then other bears and therefore estimates using radio collared bears may show a positive bias.

b) I pose the following questions: Can it be assumed that the radio collared bears are a random sample of the population of DNA bears?. Can it be assumed that the radio collaring efforts that produced the first radio sample targeted the same population as the DNA census? In terms of each method of estimation the following problems are possible if this assumption is not met:

i) CAPTURE-Program capture assumes you are sampling a closed population. The best analogy is a ball and urn used in the lottery in which each ball is a bear. Balls or bears can have variable capture probabilities with capture but it is assumed that they are all present in the urn. If there is a different urn, or different population was being sampled when bears were radio collared then it is invalid to use the radio collared bears as a first mark and DNA bears as a second mark.

ii) NOREMARK-The assumptions outlined above for program CAPTURE are relaxed. It is assumed that after collaring the radio collared bears intermix with the non-radio collared bears so at the time of sampling they are a random sample (in terms of spatial distribution, demographics etc) of the targeted DNA census population. This is why Miller et al.,(1997.) recommends that mark-resight censuses for bears up north occur at least a few months after the bears are radio marked. It seems like this assumption would be met in the case of the East Slopes.

Given the above outlined points I recommend that the NOREMARK estimate be used for the population estimate of the East Slopes. The large confidence interval width on this estimate should be emphasized.

In conclusion, the report provided by Mike Proctor does an excellent job of covering the bases in terms of mark-recapture issues and possible analysis techniques. It should provide a valuable interpretation of the results of the East Slopes mark-recapture effort.

References

Miller, S. D., White, G. C., Sellers, R. A., Reynolds, H. V., Schoen, J. W., Titus, K., Barnes, V. G. J., Smith, R. B., Nelson, R. R., Ballard, W. W. & C.C., S. (1997.). Brown and black bear density estimation in Alaska using radiotelemetry and replicated mark+resight techniques. Wildl. Monogr. No. 133., 55pp.

Otis, D. L., Burnham, K. P., White, G. C. & Anderson, D. R. (1978). Statistical inference from capture data on closed animal populations. Wildlife Monographs 62, 1-135.

White, G. C. (1996). NOREMARK: Population estimation from mark-resighting surveys. Wildlife Society Bulletin 24, 50-52.

White, G. C., Anderson, D. R., Burnham, K. P. & Otis, D. L. (1982). Capture-recapture and removal methods for sampling closed populations. Los Alamos National Laboratory .

LITERATURE CITED

Carr, H.D. 1989. Distribution, numbers and mortality of grizzly bears in and around Kananaskis Country, Alberta. Fish and Wildl. Div. Wildl. Manage. Branch Wildl. Res. Series 3. 49 pp.

ERCB. 1994. Decision report D 94-8, Application for an exploratory well, Amoco Canada Petroleum Company Ltd., Whaleback Ridge Area. Energy Resources Conservation Board, Edmonton.

Gibeau, M.L. In press. Grizzly bear habitat effectiveness model for Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks, Canada. Int. Conf. Bear Res. And Manage. 10: 000-000.

Gibeau, M. and S. Herrero. 1995. Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project: 1994 Progress Report. University of Calgary, AB. 26 pp.

Gibeau, M. and S. Herrero. 1996. Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project: 1995 Progress Report. University of Calgary, AB. 46pp.

Gibeau, M., S. Herrero, J. Kansas and B. Benn. 1996. Grizzly bear population and habitat status in Banff National Park: A report to the Banff Bow Valey Task Force. University of Calgary, AB. 62 pp.

Herrero, S. 1995. The Canadian National Parks and grizzly bear ecosystems: The need for interagency management. Int. Conf. Bear. Res. and Manage. 9:7-21.

Herrero, S. and J. Herrero. 1996. Cheviot Mine: A proposed carnivore compensation program. BIOS Environmental Research Ltd., Calgary, AB. 38 pp.

Herrero, S., D. Poll, M. Gibeau, J. Kansas, and B. Worbets. In Press. The eastern slopes grizzly bear project: Origins, organization, and direction. Proceedings; Canadian Council on Ecological Areas, Annual meeting, Calgary, AB. November 1995.

Komex Intl. 1995. Atlas of the Central Rockies Ecosystem. Komex Intl., Calgary, A.B.

Mattson, D.J., S. Herrero, R.G. Wright and C.M. Pease. 1996. Science and management of Rocky Mountain grizzly bears. Consv. Biol. 10(4): 1013-1025.

Nagy, J.A. and J.R. Gunson. 1990. Management plan for grizzly bears in Alberta. Alberta Fish and Wildlife, Edmonton. 164 pp. plus appendicies.

Noss, R. and Cooperrider. 1994. Saving natures legacy: Projecting and restoring biodiversity. Defenders of Wildlife and Island Press, Washington, D.C.

NRCB. 1993a. Decision report. Application to construct a recreational and tourist resort Project in the Town of Canmore, Alberta. Application 9103- Three Sisters Golf Resorts Inc. Natural Resources Conservation Board. Edmonton.

NRCB. 1993b. Decision report, Application #9201, Vacation Alberta corporation application to construct recreation and tourism facilities in the West Castle Valley, Near Pincher Creek, Alberta. Natural Resources Conservation Board, Edmonton.

Raine, M. and R. Riddell. 1991. Grizzly bear research in Yoho and Kootenay National Parks. Canadian Parks Service Report, Calgary, Alberta.

Russell, R.H., J.W. Nolan, N.G. Woody, and G.H. Anderson. 1979. A study of the grizzly bear in Jasper National Park. Canadian Wildlife Service, Edmonton. 102 pp. plus 10 appendicies.

PERSONAL COMMUNICATIONS

Woods, John. Research ecologist. Glacier/Revelstoke National Parks, Revelstoke, B.C.


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