In April 2008 and after a lot of thought, the Willmore Wilderness Foundation decided to gather as much grizzly bear information from traditional sources as we could. We felt that the official grizzly bear census was unbelievably low. We requested that our members and other groups who spent considerable time on the eastern slopes and in the foothills regions forward any sightings of grizzly bears. We hoped to glean as much information as possible: i.e. colour; sows with cubs; age of cubs; whether the bears were alone or with a group; the bears’ activities; and whether there were collars or ear tags. Individual traditional land users forwarded their information to info@WillmoreWilderness.com.
The Foundation had three persons on staff who took the sightings information and created a database, which included detailed descriptions, some GPS locations of bears, photographs and contact information of every report for further follow-up. After eight months of collecting data, we had close to five hundred bear sightings. Most of the sightings were from Highway 16 north; however, there were some from as far south as the Montana border.
Our statistics included the fact that there had been three grizzly attacks and deaths as a result. For example in 2013 there were two deaths west of Calgary. There several other deaths and mauling’s during the Grizzly Bear Survey period. There was well as one oil and gas sector worker that was also mauled in the Kakwa Region. We had numerous reports from oil field workers that grizzlies were seen well east of their usual habitat.
We also had reports of livestock being killed. One example of this was when a former Alberta Forest Service Ranger reported that a grizzly—just west of Edson, killed his horse. One grizzly bear was live trapped near the schoolyard in Susa Creek, a remote community near Grande Cache. We also received reports of grizzly sightings on other Native Co-ops near Grande Cache where children play. One Grande Cache man reported that a grizzly charged his truck, while a local woman described how a grizzly boar charged her car. One man reported a grizzly walking around his house in the Town of Grande Cache while he was shingling his house.
Biologists from the University of Laval have been doing goat studies on Caw Ridge for the past fifteen years and have seen a steady increase in sightings—from one in 1994 to a high of fifty-one in 2006.
This many sightings, and the areas they were reported in (many kilometers east of their habitual range), suggests to us that the bear population is expanding and more bears are being pushed out of traditional areas.
Nathan Web, the Provincial Carnivore Specialist during the Grizzly Bear Survey was very pleased with the number of grizzly bear images that the Foundation provided him. You can view the movie by watching the 2010 Grizzly Bear Short Movie. The Grizzly Bear Survey sponsors include:
Alberta Wild Sheep Foundation
Alberta Bowhunters Association
Alberta Fish and Game Association
North Eastern Fish & Game: Zone #5
Cheyenne Rig Repair & Supply Ltd.
A.M. Consulting – Maurice Nadeau
Willmore Wildernesss Foundation
Bazil Leonard, President