February 2, 2009

19 grizzlies died in Alberta last year

Nineteen grizzly bears were killed in Alberta, Canada, last year, a number Canadian wildlife experts worry further endanger the threatened bruins' survival.

Six grizzlies were killed after it was determined they posed risks to humans. Six more were killed in self-defense, four by road or rail accident, and others by native subsistence hunters, an illegal kill or unknown reasons, the Calgary Herald reported Monday.

The total compared with nine in 2007 and was the most since 2005 when 10 of the 23 grizzlies killed were by licensed hunters. The province, which has 500 or fewer grizzlies, banned hunting them three years ago.

There's no specific reason as to why this year was any different from last year or the year before -- besides that it's just a natural fluctuation in the data, said Darcy Whiteside, spokesman for Alberta Sustainable Resource Development. It's not natural, of course.

Robert Barclay, a University of Calgary biologist and grizzly expert, said last year's rate is a worrying number. However, the long-range effect on the bears' population was hard to project, he said.

Carl Morrison of the group Action Grizzly Bear said the total may even have been higher because some deaths go uncounted. He said the province needs to do more to protect the grizzlies and foster their comeback.