Alberta Brings Back Grizzly Hunting, But Only for ‘Problem’ Bears

Grizzly bear hunting has been banned in the province since 2006. But with human-bear conflicts on the rise in, government officials say the rule change for approved hunters is necessary to protect Albertans
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A grizzly bear in a meadow.
Alberta's grizzly bear population is somewhere between 856 and 973 bears, according to the latest count in 2021. Photo by hecke71 / Adobe Stock

After banning the practice for nearly two decades, the Alberta government is bringing back grizzly bear hunting. Officials say the recent change to Alberta’s Wildlife Act is necessary to tamp down on human-bear conflicts, which have been on the rise. Officials stopped short of establishing the typical hunting seasons, quotas, and regulations that exist in other places where grizzlies are legally hunted.

Instead, the provincial government plans to use resident hunters as proxy wildlife managers, and the regulations established on June 17 create a framework for hunters to track and kill “problem” grizzly bears that are threatening public safety.

The Rocky Mountain Outlook reports that under this new framework, Alberta’s Forestry and Parks Minister Todd Loewen will establish a pool of government-approved hunters made up of Alberta residents with hunting licenses who apply for consideration. The Ministry will then be able to issue a “grizzly bear management authorization” to a hunter for a specific grizzly bear if a wildlife officer determines that bear is involved in a human-bear conflict. These are bears without cubs that “pose an imminent public safety risk” or that have “killed livestock, damaged private property or made contact with a human resulting in injury or death,” according to a new definition that was included as part of the change to the Wildlife Act.

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If selected, the hunter would have to be on-site within 24 hours of receiving the authorization. An authorization will include the area where hunting is permitted, the times when hunting can occur, and the methods and equipment that are allowed. It’s not immediately clear if hunters will be able to keep bear parts such as the skull, hide, and meat, or if they will have to turn the bear over to the government once it’s killed.

The change has gotten pushback from some locals and grizzly bear advocates, many of whom are opposed to grizzly bear hunting in any form. The practice was first outlawed in Alberta in 2006, and grizzlies were listed as a threatened species by the government four years later. Critics of the rule change say these protections should remain, and that targeted hunting could hamper recovery efforts. There are between 856 and 973 grizzlies in the province, according to the government’s latest count in 2021, which falls short of the recovery objective of 1,000 mature grizzlies that was established in Alberta’s 2020 Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan.

“If there is that pressure from people who want to hunt grizzlies, we might end up killing more grizzlies than might be euthanized in the first place,” Devon Earl with the Alberta Wildness Association told the Outlook earlier this week. Earl also expressed concerns about the 24-hour window and said that any bear deemed a public safety threat should be dealt with “in the appropriate manner right away by wildlife officers.”

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Government officials, however, have made it clear that some change is necessary. They say conflicts between grizzlies and humans have escalated since grizzly bear hunting was banned in the province.

In a statement shared with the Outlook, Forestry and Parks secretary Pam Davidson pointed out that grizzlies have killed eight people in Alberta since 2005, with 62 others mauled by grizzlies in that same stretch of time. She said there have also been 897 instances of livestock depredation by bears in the last eight years alone. This, Davidson said, “is why Alberta’s government is taking action to protect Albertans.”