Canada reinstates grizzly bear hunting in Alberta

The Canadian province of Alberta has discreetly lifted a 20-year ban on hunting grizzly bears, a move conservationists have condemned as a “slap in the face” amid ongoing debates about the future of the threatened species. The ban was originally implemented in 2006 after the grizzly bear population, once numbering up to 9,000, drastically declined due to excessive hunting, agricultural development, and urbanization.

In 2002, provincial authorities estimated around 850 grizzlies lived on provincial lands, with nearly 200 more in national parks. Listed as a threatened species by Alberta’s government in 2010, recent counts show a population between 856 and 973. However, on June 17, the province quietly amended the Wildlife Act, allowing the hunting of “problem bears.”

“I can’t believe I’m writing this, but the controversial Alberta grizzly bear hunt is back on,” wildlife photographer John Marriott posted on Facebook, sharing a link to the provincial parliamentary record. “A f**king THREATENED species is now about to be hunted again.”

The right-leaning provincial government defended the move as necessary for “protecting Albertans,” citing 62 maulings and eight deaths from bear attacks since 2005. A spokesperson also mentioned 897 instances of livestock losses since 2016, significantly impacting Alberta farmers, though it was unclear if all were due to grizzly bears.

Fatal bear attacks are very rare, and bears often suffer more from human encounters. A University of Alberta study found that 21 grizzlies were killed by train collisions in Banff National Park in 2000, and 75 deaths occurred due to vehicle collisions in Alberta’s Bow Valley region.

“They’re just using fear to push their agenda,” said Nicholas Scapillati, head of the non-profit Grizzly Bear Foundation. “No one was consulted in this decision – not biologists, independent conservation groups, or First Nations. It’s an absolute slap in the face to the province’s grizzly recovery plan. We know how to lower the risk of dangerous interactions with bears – and it’s not by killing them.”

Under the new rules, the ministry of forestry and parks will establish a list of eligible individuals authorized to hunt “problem” grizzlies involved in human-bear conflicts or livestock killings. Selected hunters must arrive at the bear’s location within 24 hours of notification and can only pursue the bear in permitted hunting areas.

“I’m just trying to make sense of this plan because it’s so full of holes,” Scapillati said. “You’re turning hunters into hitmen. It’s a stain on the hunting community, and you’re attracting an unscrupulous group of people who would want to kill a bear this way.”

Scapillati added that the decision’s “quiet” implementation highlights the ongoing struggle conservation groups face in protecting species, even those listed as threatened. “There’s just no respect being shown, no respect for the bears, for the efforts of conservationists working on coexistence and grizzly bear recovery,” he said. “This decision is a warning, not just to Albertans but to everyone: threatened species are not safe.”

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