Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear

(Ursos arctos) - Aklaq
Updated January 2008
 
Population Status
Distribution: Grizzly bears occur throughout the North Slope at varying densities.
Population size:The Yukon North Slope supports varying densities of bears dependent on the habitat type, season and history of harvest. Population estimates and bear densities were obtained by studies done in Alaska and one in the Barn Mountains. The Yukon North Slope population estimates comprise about 5% of the Yukon population. The territorial population is estimated at 6,000 - 7,000 animals. The 1998 estimate of the Yukon North Slope population of grizzly bears over two years of age was 305.
Population trend:Wildlife managers believe the population to be stable.
Unique or special characteristics:
  • Northern grizzly bears are believed to be limited generally by the quality and quantity of food and human-caused mortality.
  • Grizzly bears occur at naturally low densities over their entire range, have relatively low reproductive potential, and are dependent on large tracts of wilderness (annual home ranges of up to 2000 km2) making them vulnerable to over-harvest.
Habitat Features
Male grizzly bears use annual home ranges of up to 2,000 km2. (The grizzly bear study currently underway on the Yukon North Slope has reported one bear as having an annual range of 3000 km2.) As a result, large tracts of relatively undisturbed habitat are required to maintain healthy populations. Preferred habitat for grizzly bears is poorly defined in most areas, with the exception of the Firth corridor, in Ivvavik National Park. On the Yukon North Slope, grizzlies are not considered to be limited by the availability of denning sites, although presumably vast areas are less than ideal due to drainage conditions and permafrost. It is likely that grizzly bear distribution and therefore habitat use over much of the Yukon North Slope is influenced by the distribution and availability of seasonally important foods such as Hedysarum (Eskimo potato, bear root), grasses, forbs, berries, ground squirrels, and caribou.
 
Harvest
Grizzly bear hunting on the Yukon North Slope is regulated by quota. Harvest quotas for grizzly bears are recommended by the Wildlife Management Advisory Councils – North Slope and NWT. Annual tags are currently allocated by the Aklavik HTC to Inuvialuit residents of Aklavik only.
 
Inuvialuit: Under the IFA, the Aklavik Hunters and Trappers Committee has the authority to develop bylaws that apply to the Inuvialuit harvest of specific species, should such bylaws be needed. NWT regulations must then reflect these bylaws. Bylaws may also be reflected in Ivvavik National Park regulations and Yukon wildlife regulations. There are currently by-laws in place for Inuvialuit harvesting of grizzly bears on the Yukon North Slope and adjacent areas in the NWT. Inuvialuit beneficiaries have the exclusive right to hunt within Ivvavik National Park and Herschel Island Territorial Park for subsistence purposes.
Some Inuvialuit communities conduct guided sport hunts for grizzly bears. These hunts provide greater economic opportunities to individuals and to communities in general than those obtained from the sale of hides. The Aklavik HTC currently does not conduct any guided sport hunts for grizzly bears in either the NWT or Yukon portion of their hunting area.
Hunters are required to report all grizzly bears hunted or killed in self-defence in the NWT and Yukon. Information on sex and location of the kill is document. A premolar tooth is collected to age bears. Bears killed in self-defence actions are accounted for under the quotas.
From 1988 to 1999 Inuvialuit harvest data was collected through the Inuvialuit Harvest Study. In the period from 1988 to 1997, the average annual harvest reported by Aklavik residents was five. The GNWT annually summary of harvest data for species under quota in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region includes harvest data for grizzly bears according to the type of harvest kill, i.e. (sport, subsistence, problem/defence/illegal, and domestic/commercial).
 

Inuvialuit harvesting rights to grizzly bears
Ivvavik National Park
exclusive
Herschel Island Territorial Park
exclusive
East of the Babbage River
preferential
Adjoining NWT
exclusive

 
Others: Regulations under Yukon Wildlife Act, NWT Wildlife Act and National Parks Act apply in their respective jurisdictions.
 

Other resident harvesting
Ivvavik National Park
none permitted
Herschel Island
none permitted
East of the Babbage River
tags currently only allocated to Inuvialuit
Adjoining NWT
permitted only by Inuvialuit

 
Eco-tourism
For many people, grizzly bears are synonymous with wilderness. They are a major attraction for tourists visiting the northern Yukon, where bears can be relatively conspicuous due to the expansive views. In the Firth River corridor there is the potential of confrontation with or disruptions of grizzlies by rafting parties. Focus on potential human-bear interactions was part of a field study in the mid-1990s. Parks Canada briefs all park visitors regarding the potential risks involved in traveling through these areas. In addition there has been a strong focus on educating park visitors with best practice techniques for reducing the chances of conflicts with grizzly bears. These techniques include campsite selection, food and garbage storage, and tips for avoiding prime bear habitat.
 
Threats
The major threat to grizzlies on the Yukon North Slope is human-caused mortality, including harvest for subsistence use and self- defence actions. All human-caused mortality is currently regulated under a community bylaw and quotas. The sex, age and kill location of all bears hunted under quota is documented. Complaints about problem bear and self-defence kills in the NWT and Yukon are monitored and investigated. The Government of Yukon has recently initiated a program to address human-bear conflict at Shingle Point.
 
Species at Risk Status
Yukon: Special concern
COSEWIC: Special concern (Northwest population)
CITES: Appendix II
 
Research and Monitoring
Population monitoring:Population monitoring is a component of the grizzly bear study currently underway on the Yukon North Slope (see below). There is also an ongoing program to record species observed on Herschel Island.
 
Research: Grizzly bear studies have been done in a large proportion of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. From 1972-1975 the Canadian Wildlife Service carried out an extensive ecological study of grizzlies in the Barn Mountains. A series of detailed studies of grizzly bears has been conducted in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Brooks Range in Alaska. In 1993, Government of Northwest Territories, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, completed a two-year mark-recapture study in the northern Richardson Mountains to estimate population size and obtain demographic information. This department also initiated a productivity study in 1993 to monitor reproductive rates and cub survival in that area. The field portion of that study was completed in June 2000 to provide information necessary to determine sustainable harvest rates for the Richardson Mountains population.
 
Another study, initiated by Parks Canada in Ivvavik National Park, determined grizzly bear distribution, habitat use, and food habits in the Firth River Corridor, and made recommendations to reduce bear-human conflicts.
 
The Government of Yukon's Department of Environment has classified and mapped vegetation on the Yukon North Slope, including the Richardson Mountains in the Yukon and Northwest Territories.
 
The Government of Yukon, in partnership with Parks Canada and the Aklavik Hunters and Trappers Committee, has initiated a six-year grizzly bear population studyMore information can be found at http://www.wmacns.ca/current/projects/9/ on the Yukon North Slope. The project was begun in 2004 and includes projects to gather information from local residents as well as some science-based activities. A DNA mark-recapture study is providing information on movement and population size by collecting hair samples from bears using special traps. GPS collars are being used to follow bear movement and to find out what habitat the bears are using at different times of year. This part of the study is designed to determine how changes in habitat can influence population size and movements. The habitat work will also provide population estimates based on the amount of good habitat for grizzly bears.
 
In December 2002, the University of Alberta and the Government of Northwest Territories, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Inuvik Region, initiated the Mackenzie Delta Grizzly Bear Research Program. This collaborative study focuses on management issues and questions related to grizzly bear ecology in the Mackenzie Delta region and the construction of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. http://pubs.aina.ucalgary.ca/arctic/Arctic59-4-453.pdf
 
Deficiencies: Sustainable harvest rates need to be reviewed using population-specific information. Many people from Aklavik travel to coastal camps to hunt whales and caribou and to fish. The number of complaints received by GNWT about problem bears at outpost camps has increased during recent years. A concerted effort is needed to educate people about the importance of clean camps, proper storage of foods, and camp bear-proofing techniques to reduce problem bear situations. Most problem bears are killed during the summer months when hides have little economic value. The potential impacts of climate change are unknown.
 
Management
 

Occurrence in jurisdictional areas
Ivvavik National Park
Herschel Island Territorial Park
East of the Babbage River
Adjoining NWT
Offshore
International agreements/ management plans
Management Plan for Grizzly Bears in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, 1997
Applicable legislation
IFA
Yukon Wildlife Act
National Parks Act
NWT Wildlife Act
Lead enforcement agencies
Ivvavik National Park
Parks Canada
Herschel Island Territorial Park
YTG
East of the Babbage River
YTG
Adjoining NWT
GNWT
Offshore
GNWT

 
Since 1997, the management of grizzly bears in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region has been guided by the Co-Management Plan for Grizzly Bears in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. http://www.taiga.net/wmac/pdfs/griz_co-man_plan.pdf
In 1997, the Yukon Government developed Grizzly Bear Management Principles to be applied to all grizzlies in the Yukon. http://www.yfwmb.yk.ca/comanagement/species/grizzly/guidelines.html
The North Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Plan includes a chapter on the management of grizzly bears in the Vuntut Gwitchin Traditional Territory which lies to the south of the Inuvialuit Settlement region in the Yukon. http://www.yfwmb.yk.ca/comanagement/
 
Community-based Information
In 2003, the Wildlife Management Advisory Council (North Slope) and the Aklavik Hunters and Trappers Committee undertook a project to record traditional knowledge of certain birds and animals on the Yukon North Slope. The observations, comments and concerns expressed by Aklavik residents as part of this study were as follows:
·        Spring hunters are seeing few fresh bear tracks each year but similar numbers, mostly inland 50-75 km.
·        More tracks are being seen west of the Babbage River. More of the tracks seen west of the Babbage River are of smaller bears.
·        Some hunters feel that grizzly bears are more numerous than they were 20 years ago.
·        Grizzly bears seem to be moving and using the land in the same ways they always have.
·        Summer sightings are increasing in some areas of the coast. Vegetation changes there may make food more available.
·        The bears do not seem to be preying on moose, but they have been seen following muskox.
·        The bears harvested by hunters in the spring are not too fat. They are in the same condition as before.
·        The quota for grizzly bears is too small.
·        Hunting boundaries are hard for older hunters to locate.
·        Damage to camps in the delta is unacceptable.
Community-based information on this species may also be found in the reports of the annual community-based monitoring program conducted in Aklavik and neighbouring communities by the Arctic Borderlands Ecological Knowledge Co-op. http://www.taiga.net/coop/community/index.htmlThe following comments are taken from the Arctic Borderlands Ecological Knowledge Co-op Community Reports for Aklavik – Inuvialuit for the years indicated: .
 
2005 - 2006
Bears are mostly seen down by the coast. There are very few in the delta, only problem bears. There were hardly any cubs reported. When people travel, they don’t wait around. They only report what they see.
 
2003 - 2004
There are always bears around. Some are real problem bears, as they wreck cabins. Have hardly seen bears with cubs, if there are any.
The six-year grizzly bear population studySome traditional and local knowledge of grizzly bears and bear habitat in the area has already been gathered (Government of Northwest Territories, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, in prep.). There are also some written records of traditional and local knowledge of bears in the region. currently underway on the Yukon North Slope has a traditional knowledge component. Aklavik residents are being interviewed to record their observations of bear activity and to gather information on harvesting.
 
Related Literature and Information Sources
Arctic Borderlands Ecological Knowledge Co-op. 2007 Community Monitoring Report 2005 -2006.
 
Arctic Borderlands Ecological Knowledge Co-op. 2005 Community Monitoring Report 2003 – 2004.
 
Branigan, M. 2003. Personal communication, Government of Northwest Territories, Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
 
Cooley, D. 2003. Personal communication, Government of Yukon, Department of Environment.
 
COSEWIC 2002. COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the Grizzly Bear Ursus arctos in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/virtual_sara/files/cosewic/sr_grizzly_bear_e.pdf
 
Edwards, M. 2006. Habitat and movement ecology of grizzly bears in the Mackenzie Delta, NWT. Arctic. v. 59, no. 4, p. 453-456.
Joint Secretariat, 2003. Inuvialuit Harvest Study, Data and Methods Report 1988 – 1997. Inuvik, NT. http://www.fjmc.ca/publications/IHS.htm
 
MacHutchon, A.G. 1996. Grizzly bear habitat use study, Ivvavik National Park, Yukon: Final report. Western Arctic District, Parks Canada, Inuvik 142 pp.
 
Ivvavik National Park, Yukon. Western Arctic District, Parks Canada, Inuvik 81 pp.
MacHutchon, A.G. 2003. Grizzly bear food habits in the northern Yukon, Canada. Ursus 14(2):225–235.
 
MacKenzie, W. and A.G. MacHutchon. 1996. Habitat classification for the Firth River Valley, Ivvavik National Park, Yukon. Parks Canada, Inuvik.
 
Maraj, R. 2007. Personal communication, Government of Yukon, Department of Environment.
 
Nagy, J. and M. Branigan. 2000. Summary of harvest data for species under quota in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. Government of Northwest Territories, Inuvik.
 
Nagy, J. and M. Branigan. 1998. Co-Management Plan for Grizzly Bears in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. Government of Northwest Territories, Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
http://www.taiga.net/wmac/pdfs/griz_co-man_plan.pdf
 
Parks Canada. 2003. Annual Report of Research and Monitoring in National Parks of the Western Arctic 2003. http://www.pc.gc.ca/docs/v-g/rs-rm2003/sec1/index_E.asp
 
Ross. P.I. 2002. Update COSEWIC status report on the grizzly bear Ursus arctos in Canada, in COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the Grizzly Bear Ursus arctos in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa.
 
Wildlife Management Advisory Council (North Slope) and the Aklavik Hunters and Trappers Committee. 2003. Aklavik Inuvialuit describe the status of certain birds and animals on the Yukon North Slope, March, 2003. Final Report. Wildlife Management Advisory Council (North Slope), Whitehorse, Yukon.