The bear facts
"Grizzly bears have never seen large-scale human hunting or commercial development"

by Anne-Marie Jennings
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 30/98) - New research suggests the NWT's grizzly bears could be threatened by continued development.

Conducted by scientists from the University of Saskatchewan in conjunction with officials from the NWT Department of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development, the study examined the effect of environmental changes on the grizzlies and their lifestyle.

Philip McLoughlin, a doctoral student at the University of Saskatchewan, said that interest in mining in the North has led to a growing need to study the wildlife of the area.

"The opportunity to study the bears came as a result of the diamond rush," McLoughlin explained. "It gave us the opportunity to study a population of bears which had not been studied."

"We discovered some fascinating aspects of biology," he said. "The bears have the largest home ranges of any population in North America -- more than we expected."

Evidence gathered suggests the grizzly populations in the North have been relatively undisturbed because of the slow rate of commercial and residential development.

But the increase in the development of new mines in the North does pose a threat to the relatively stable lifestyle of the grizzly bear.

"They are susceptible to human impact," McLoughlin said. "The bears have never seen large-scale human hunting or commercial development."

The four-year study has focused each year on a particular region, instead of trying to work on a vast area in one study. The researchers now want to move east, toward Bathurst Island.

Data from previous years indicate adult males move over a larger distance than their female counterparts, and have already produced information on the diet of the bears.

The study is part of the West Kitikmeot/Slave Study, a series of baseline studies on Northern ecosystems.

Partners in the study include the Dogrib Treaty 11 Council, Lutselk'e Dene First Nation, Metis Nation of the NWT, the NWT Chamber of Mines, Northern Environmental Coalition, Inuit and Nunavut co-management organizations, the GNWT and the federal government.

The West Kitikmeot/Slave Study Society will be holding its next meeting April 8 at 7 p.m. at Northern United Place in Yellowknife.

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