Why Is Canada’s Wolf Population Splitting Into Two Groups?

Why Is Canada's Wolf Population Splitting Into Two Groups?

Chester Starr of the Heiltsuk First Nation knows that the wolves of British Columbia come in two varieties: timber wolves on the mainland and coastal wolves on the islands. Genetic research has finally confirmed what Starr’s tribe has always known.

It was Starr’s “traditional ecological knowledge” that initially inspired Polish Academy of Sciences researcher Astrid V. Stronen and University of Calgary scientist Erin Navid to take a closer look at British Columbia’s wolves. They wanted to see whether the Heiltsuk Nation’s folk knowledge was reflected in the wolves’ genes. Continue reading

Teaching polar bears to fear humans in order to save them

Churchill in northern Manitoba bills itself as the the polar bear capital of the world and its tourism-based economy depends on it. But as climate change forces the polar bears inland in search of food, attacks on humans are increasing. Can this small community continue to co-exist with the world’s largest land predator? Suzanne Goldenberg reports from Churchill where its bear alert programme uses guns, helicopters and a polar bear jail to manage the the creatures .

This trip was supported by Explore.orgPolar Bears International and Frontiers North

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2013/nov/25/polar-bear-canada-churchill-manitoba-video?CMP=twt_gu

The Last Wild Wolves in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rain Forest

The Last Wild Wolves is a 3 part documentary of the “Ghosts of the Rain forests” or the coastal wolves of British Columbia’s Great Bear Rain forest. This is a temperate rain forest that is isolated from the continent of Canada by a vast mountain range and has been ruled by the wild for thousands of years. This rain forest has been heavily dependent on the yearly return of the salmon for food and fertilization and since it is protected against fires, many of the trees are thousands of years old also.

The wolves of this rain forest have never been studied before. A group of biologists that were studying the bear population here and it’s relationship to salmon, kept running into lot’s of evidence of the wolves. Since their habitat was slated to be demolished by logging activity, the group called the Rain Coast Conservation Society decided that a study was needed.

Before this study was conducted, the Grizzly Bear was thought to be the Apex predator of the forests. It has since been found that it is actually the wolf that is the Apex predator that keeps the diverse ecosystem in balance. This is because the wolf travels all over the rain forest whereas the Grizzly stays in the coastal valleys. A noninvasive type of research was decided upon so as to not disturb the wolf population. Hair samples and wolf scat were collected to analyze it’s contents for types of prey eaten and nutrients found.

What the biologist found was that the wolves were an essential component of the health of the rain forest. Since salmon are the life blood here, the most important role of the wolf was to carry the salmon inland to the forests. Then the salmon remains were used as food for the birds and insects. The release of nitrogen into the soil from the decaying fish bodies then fertilized the lush growth of trees and foliage which produced vast amounts of oxygen. Thus completing the cycle.

It was also found that the wolves here had the most genetic diversity of wolves anywhere in the world since they had been so isolated and undisturbed in the past. This genetic diversity is crucial to be able to adapt to changing conditions in the environment over time. Sadly the biggest threat now is the logging industry which has started to move into this pristine area threatening the natural balance of the the area. It has also created roads which can easily bring in hunters to track the wolves, bears and other wildlife.

In conclusion the research team came to understand that the wolves are a part of a central ecosystem that works together in perfect harmony. Even though industrial destruction is closing in on this highly functioning ecosystem, there is still time to learn the important lessons from nature and to understand that we too as humans play a crucial part in preserving it’s balance.

Videos : The Last Wild Wolves in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest

Source: http://www.whitewolfpack.com/2011/04/last-wild-wolves-in-british-columbias.html

Biology, not politics, must drive B.C. grizzly bear management

By Faisal Moola, Director General, Ontario and Northern Canada @faisal_moola

Scientists from Simon Fraser University, the University of Victoria and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation recently published apeer-reviewed scientific article in the international journal PLOS ONE warning that people are killing grizzly bears at rates far exceeding government limits in British Columbia, and that the province’s controversial trophy hunt is partly to blame. “Confronting uncertainty in wildlife management: performance of grizzly bear management”, which was partly funded by the David Suzuki Foundation, is the latest in a series of analyses, including some by former B.C. government biologists, that cast serious doubt on the government’s claim that grizzly bear hunting is well-managed and science-based.

In the most recent study, PhD student and lead author Kyle Artelle and his colleagues analyzed a large government data set containing details on the deaths of thousands of bears killed by trophy hunters, as well as animal control officers, poachers and vehicle and train collisions.

Their researchers wanted to determine whether B.C.’s grizzly management met its own objectives of maintaining human-caused kills below predetermined limits set by the government. They found that of an estimated population of 15,000 bears inB.C., more than 3,500 (including over 1,200 females) were killed over the last decade, in most cases by trophy hunters. They also found total kills commonly exceeded limits set by management policy over 10 years, from 2001 to 2011. These “overkills” occurred at least once during the 10-year period in half the populations open to hunting. Disturbingly, overhunting was particularly prevalent for female bears, which are the reproductive powerhouses of the species, and thus critical to sustaining population numbers.

Trophy hunt needs to be reduced or stopped

The scientists also found the B.C. government is failing to take into account uncertainty around bear population numbers, sustainable mortality levels and predicting mortality when setting hunting limits that don’t result in excessive bear deaths. When these factors were taken into account, the actual mortality of bears resulting from human actions might be much higher than what the government considers “sustainable”, and thus the scientists show that for grizzly bear populations to be managed more conservatively, their exposure to trophy hunting and other threats would need to be reduced significantly.

Lead author Artelle told the Victoria Time Colonist, “These overkills are a serious concern because the biology of grizzly bears makes them highly vulnerable to excessive mortality. They have great difficulty recovering from population declines.”

Indeed, despite being large and ferocious animals, grizzly bears are highly sensitive to human impacts, in part because female bears reproduce later in life and often produce only a small number of cubs that survive into adulthood. Grizzlies must often travel over long distances to find enough food to sustain themselves, putting them at risk of coming into deadly contact with hunters, roads, town sites and other human encroachments into their habitat.

B.C. government dismisses science

Sadly, the B.C. government quickly dismissed the findings of this latest study in a statement released November 5, claiming that overhunting doesn’t occur “since grizzly bear harvest numbers are deliberately set very conservatively.” The province also claimed that robust populations of grizzlies remain in B.C., contrary to the expert opinion of many independent bear biologists, and the fact that on-the-ground inventories of bear numbers are rarely done.

The government also claimed that grizzlies aren’t hunted in 35 per cent of the province. While this may be true, those are almost entirely areas where grizzlies have gone extinct, are currently threatened or are not hunted because of population concerns, providing strong evidence that management is not conservative!

The province’s claim that the grizzly bear hunt is scientifically well-managed is a tired refrain. We’ve heard it before from government managers for other species driven to near-extinction due to overharvesting, overfishing and overuse — including northern cod off the Newfoundland coast and rapidly disappearing old-growth cedar forests on Vancouver Island. We’ve witnessed the ecological, economic and social chaos that has occurred with government mismanagement of other species at risk. Let’s hope the B.C. government realizes this and ends its unsustainable bear trophy hunt before it’s too late and Canada’s great bears are but a memory of our nation’s former biological richness.

Sign the petition to end trophy hunt

You can help protect grizzly bears by signing a petition, organized by nine B.C.First Nations, which calls on Premier Christy Clark and her ministers in charge to end the grizzly bear trophy hunt.

These First Nations, under an alliance called Coastal First Nations, have acted on their own to protect the species by declaring their expansive traditional territories inB.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest off limits to trophy hunters under a tribal ban. As noted by Heiltsuk councillor Jessie Housty, “Analysis of their [government] own data shows managers are risking the long-term survival of grizzly populations across B.C. Our responsibility as First Nations is to step into that regulatory vacuum, and protect the bears in our territories.”

Coastal First Nations is an alliance of Wuikinuxv, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Nuxalk, Gitga’at, Metlakatla, Old Massett, Skidegate and the Council of the Haida Nation, which is working to create a sustainable economy on British Columbia’s North and Central coasts and Haida Gwaii.

Source: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/panther-lounge/2013/11/biology-not-politics-must-drive-bc-grizzly-bear-management/