Grizzlies at greater risk than previously thought

A unique, First-Nations led study is shining light on dwindling grizzly bear populations in southern British Columbia.

In a report on science website Phys.org, it is noted that the non-invasive DNA sampling of grizzlies over three-years shows that the bears are at greater risk than previously thought.

The Koeye River Conservacy, a protected area in the Heiltsuk First Nation of the Great Bear Rainforest, was the focal point of the study. Phys.org notes that the Heiltsuk people are reasserting their rights as guardians of the river, and have created the Qqs (Eyes) Projects Society non-profit.

"What appealed to us was the opportunity to root science in strong cultural stewardship frameworks," said Qqs' William Housty in an interview with Phys.org. "We articulate specific Heiltsuk laws and customs related to respect and reciprocity and match them with scientific tools and knowledge to put those principles in action."

Scented-wire snares – barbs that catch fur of wild animals without damaging them or ‘rewarding’ them with bait – were used to collect DNA samples from 60 grizzlies. Using this data, along with salmon reproductive and water quality data, provided the foundation for the study’s conclusions.

"This study shows that protected areas are not enough. We knew that bears are wide-ranging, but this study shows how vulnerable they are to a variety of threats," said Richard Jeo, a staff scientist for The Nature Conservancy in the Phys.org article.

"We want to practice land and resource management with strong information empowering our decision makers," Housty told Phys.org. "Whether it's regulating activities like forestry and tourism or indigenous-led advocacy to end trophy hunting for bears, ensuring that we ourselves are leading the best available science is a critical part of asserting our sovereignty and stewardship responsibility."

Learn more about this study and the role the Heiltsuk people hope to play in next week’s episode of Defender Radio.

Photo by Kerri Martin

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