Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve, BC (Photo by Tim Ennis/NCC)

Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve, BC (Photo by Tim Ennis/NCC)

Glendale grizzlies, British Columbia (Photo by Klaus Gretzmacher)

Glendale grizzlies, British Columbia (Photo by Klaus Gretzmacher)

Grizzly bear

The grizzly bear, one of the strongest and most impressive mammals in North America, is a symbol of Canadian wilderness. The grizzly is able to run at speeds of 45 kilometres/hour and can weigh 100-400 kilograms (220-880 pounds).

Where does this species live?

Standing up to eight feet tall, the solitary grizzly lives in the tundra of the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, as well as the subalpine forests of British Columbia and Alberta.

What do grizzlies eat?

As an omnivore, this bear's diet consists of many different kinds of food, including plants and small animals (some grizzlies have been known to eat large animals such as deer, elk, bison and moose). Almost half of Canada's 26,000 Grizzlies live in BC, where they gather along riverbanks to eat Pacific Salmon each summer.

What is the species' conservation status?

Despite being one of the strongest mammals in Canada, the grizzly is still at risk from habitat loss and degradation. As development moves deeper into wilderness areas, it breaks up the large tracts of habitat that grizzly bears need to survive.

Globally, grizzlies only live in 50 percent of their original range. In 2002, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada assessed the Northwestern population as a species of special concern. Experts believe that the prairie population disappeared in the 1880s.

What is NCC doing to help protect this species?

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is involved in a multi-year survey of grizzly bear populations in British Columbia's Tatlayoko Lake Valley. NCC's innovative work here will help researchers understand how protected corridors are helping grizzlies move between larger areas, determine these bears' family relationships, as well as their dietary habits and population sizes.

Results from the 2006 field season

2006 was the first year of this study. Throughout the Tatlayoko Lake Valley, 23 sample sites were set up for the collection of grizzly bear hair and monitored between May and October. These sites consisted of a large pile of bear bait surrounded by knee-high barbed-wire fencing. As the bears stepped over the wire to get to the bait, tufts of their hair were left behind.

Survey results in 2006 identified:

  • 49 individual bears in the Tatlayoko Valley and/or the targeted section of the upper Chilko River; and
  • 17 individual bears in the Tatlayoko Valley itself, of which nine visited the salmon spawning areas on the Chilko River, indicating significant seasonal movement to salmon

Grizzly bears are also known to reside on these NCC properties:

Darkwoods: the grizzly bears in British Columbia's Darkwoods are a genetically isolated and threatened population. They have been cut off from other populations due to human development.

Elk Valley: An area within the Canadian Rocky Mountains rich with life and the bears favourite food ? fish. Nearby residential and industrial development threaten the species in this mountain oasis.

Ellerslie Creek Conservation Area: Logging in and around Ellerslie Creek has destroyed many acres of natural habitat. However, NCC and its partners are striving to return this area back to a condition where the grizzly can roam freely.

Koeye Estuary: Identified as one of the most outstanding estuaries in British Columbia, Koeye features ideal habitat for grizzly bears.

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