• Jess Sinclair

Pawsitive News About Grizzly Bear Populations


A large Grizzly bear. File Photo

Alberta’s grizzly bear recovery efforts are working and grizzly bear populations are increasing across the province.

Alberta continues to take important steps toward the management and recovery of grizzly bear populations.

“I am pleased to see grizzly bears are thriving in Alberta. This is the fulfilment of an important promise to Albertans and a true testament to the hard work and commitment of Alberta Environment and Parks staff and our partners through population surveys, recovery efforts and community outreach. There is still much more work to be done – and I look forward to discussing next steps on how to ensure continued grizzly bear recovery and management across the province,” said Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks.

Grizzly Population Surveys

For the first time, Alberta has science-based population estimates for all provincial bear management units. No other jurisdiction in the world has undertaken or achieved grizzly bear population inventory work at this scale. The study also validates what Albertans have been telling us for years – grizzly bear populations are on the rise across the province.

Two recent grizzly bear population surveys by fRI Research, with support from Alberta Environment and Parks and the Alberta Forest Products Association, has found that the grizzly population has doubled in the foothills area east of Banff National Park.

A large area of boreal forest between Whitecourt and Lesser Slave Lake found about 62 grizzly bears. This is the first scientific population estimate for this area.

With these up-to-date numbers, Alberta Environment and Parks can estimate the total number of grizzly bears in Alberta between 856 and 973. This gives us the clearest picture yet on the status of Alberta’s grizzly bears and will help us set policy and management direction for the future.

“This was truly a team effort by the many field workers, helicopter pilots, laboratory personnel, geographic information system (GIS) analysts, and statisticians who, with the support of the partners, have worked together to provide important new data for provincial grizzly bear management and recovery,” said Gordon Stenhouse, Grizzly Bear Program Project lead, fRI Research

“These results are a testament to what can be achieved when industry, government, and research organizations work together. The forest industry has been supporting grizzly bear research for decades and incorporating the results into our practices. We are pleased to see increasing populations of this iconic species,” said Jason Krips, president and CEO, Alberta Forest Products Association

Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan

Alberta’s updated Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan addresses increasing grizzly populations. It includes measures to reduce human-caused grizzly mortality, maintain access to secure habitat, promote education and awareness such as BearSmart programs, and assesses grizzly bear populations.

The updated plan also creates new Grizzly Bear Management Units to ensure grizzly management and recovery work is targeted to where it is most effective while reducing human-wildlife conflict.

Community-Based Projects

Maintaining the ongoing research into grizzly bears and their population numbers will continue to be an important part of Alberta Environment and Parks’ work.

Alberta’s community-based BearSmart program plays an integral role in this research. Alberta Environment and Parks is working with BearSmart leads across Alberta to roll out an app that will allow Albertans to take part in grizzly bear research and monitoring.

Quick facts

  • Grizzly bears have been listed as Threatened in Alberta since 2010. At that time, the provincial population estimate was between 700 and 800 bears. The provincial estimate is now between 865 and 973.

  • fRI Research’s Grizzly Bear Program is funded by partner organizations, including the Government of Alberta and the Alberta Forest Products Association.

  • For the population studies, field crews went into 173 sites to collect grizzly hair samples. DNA from the hairs are then examined to identify each bear.

  • The new bear management areas in Alberta’s updated Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan are separated into three categories:

Recovery zone

  • Areas where the Government of Alberta is focusing on grizzly bear recovery.

Support zones

  • Area next to the recovery zone, where it is a priority to manage grizzly bear attractants to reduce conflict and improve grizzly survival.

Habitat linkage zones

  • Identifies highway corridors that connect grizzly bear management areas.