Expanded Conservation Corridor Helps At-Risk Grizzlies Find New Mates

Grizzly Bears
Credit: creativecommons.org/xinem

The Nature Conservancy of Canada has just made it easier for a threatened South Selkirk population of grizzly bears to connect with a larger population to the east. The group has added over 150 hectares to the Frog Bear Conservation Corridor that runs through the Creston Valley – creating a safe passage for grizzlies travelling between the Selkirk and Purcell mountains.

Connecting the threatened South Selkirk grizzly bears with the more abundant grizzly population to the east is considered critical to the long term prospects for this species in this corner of the province. Biologists have identified the lands being conserved as key areas used by bears as they move through the valley.

“The Creston Valley is an incredible hot spot for conservation,” said Nancy Newhouse, Canadian Rockies program manager for the Nature Conservancy of Canada. “Researchers have mapped the movements of bears through the valley and know that a conservation corridor is vitally important for the long-term prospects of the South Selkirk grizzly bear population. It will also reduce human-bear conflict.”

One parcel is a 65-hectare forested property on the western edge of the valley that serves as a gateway for bears moving down from the mountains. The land was purchased from Creston-based Wynndel Box and Lumber and is adjacent to the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area.

An additional 85 hectares has been protected through a conservation covenant that will prevent the subdivision of the valley-bottom land. The property will continue to be used for agriculture.

The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) played a critical role in this project. The joint US-Canada organization works to ensure that wild animals are able to move through and around human communities and activities within the Yellowstone to Yukon region. Y2Y not only provided half of the purchase funds for the property, but also helped fund the research that identified the significance of this parcel.

The total cost of conserving these two parcels is $1.14 million, which includes an endowment to fund the long-term management of the project.

“Providing for wildlife connectivity through human environments has become the issue of our times, here in southern BC and around the world," said Michael Proctor, grizzly bear biologist and lead researcher of the Trans-border Grizzly Bear Project. "Enabling grizzly bears and other species to be inter-connected between mountain ranges and across regions might be the single best thing we can do to provide options for species, ecosystems and nature to adapt to climate change.”