Research shows grizzly bears and wolves avoid towns and trails in Alberta’s Bow Valley

A study that looked at grizzly bear and wolf movement data in Alberta’s Bow Valley shows that the animals avoid cities and developed areas when crowds are high.

Research published last month in the journal Movement Ecology analyzed two decades of information on the global positioning of 34 grizzly bears and 33 wolves. The animals had been fitted with collars in and around Banff National Park, west of Calgary.

“We really wanted to understand how grizzly bears and wolves used the landscape and responded to our activities inside and outside national parks,” said Jesse Whittington, Banff Park wildlife ecologist and lead author of the report. study, in an interview.

The data, he said, included 156,000 GPS locations collected in an area that spanned about 17,000 square kilometers.

The researchers found that grizzly bears and wolves reacted differently to people depending on whether it was day or night and how far they were from developed areas.

“One of the most striking things about our article is the strategies wolves and grizzly bears use to avoid encountering people,” Whittington said. “As they roam the landscape, given the choice, they will try to avoid meeting us.”

Whittington said that means the animals go through cities and all places with lots of people.

“The sites they choose to feed and rest, which are absolutely essential for their survival…are far from cities and very little used by humans,” he said.

“When we have busy landscapes like the Bow Valley, we need to make sure they provide safe, high-quality habitat that has minimal human disturbance.”

Mark Hebblewhite, professor of wildlife biology at the University of Montana and co-author of the study, said the findings are important.

Research published last month in the journal Movement Ecology analyzed two decades of information on the global positioning of 34 grizzly bears and 33 wolves in and around Banff National Park west of Calgary. (The Canadian Press)

“Development in the Bow Valley has been a decades-long conservation challenge for Parks Canada, as well as Alberta Environment and Canmore,” he said.

The study, he said, was partly prompted by a debate in the town of Canmore, which borders Banff National Park, over whether to allow more development on its eastern edge.

“This development has the potential to reshape not just Canmore, but the ecological integrity of the entire region, including Banff National Park,” Hebblewhite said.

A draft of the study was submitted to the city last year during hearings for two proposed projects, which would have nearly doubled the population in the coming decades.

The proposals, which included approximately 80% of Canmore’s remaining developable land, were both rejected by the city council. They are now in court after the developer sued the city.

Experts who presented at the hearings said the plan to provide accommodation for another 14,500 residents and tourists would have added more pressure to an already busy valley.

Hebblewhite said he and the other researchers wanted to broaden the environmental debate.

“Our goal in this analysis was to try to provide greater context on the effects of this development and other developments in general,” he said. “Large carnivores, which are a flagship species, are just an indicator for all other types of species.”

He noted that the Bow Valley has already lost 80-85% of its best wildlife habitat and proposed developments in Canmore would have increased that figure by a further 3%.

“Someone might say, ‘Three percent is okay,’ he said. ‘But that takes the needle from 85% disturbed and lost habitat to 88%.

“It is, in my view, important because it puts the debate about this property or this property in a valley-wide context.”

It’s getting to the point where animals will no longer be able to cross the Bow Valley, a key corridor used by animals to move through the Rocky Mountains, Hebblewhite said.

The research has even bigger implications, he added.

“One of the biggest challenges for national parks — not just in Canada, not just in Banff, but around the world — is exactly what’s happening in Canmore: the explosion and growth of waterfront development. a park. Because why? Everyone wants to live there,” he said.

“Without some sort of coordinated federal and provincial plan, the very thing that attracts everyone to live there will lead to it being loved to death.”

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