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Grizzly Bears

            Grizzly bears in British Columbia represent many things to different people. To a large percentage of the population, they represent all that is still wild about our province, a link to the past before humans came and logged much of the forests, put roads over the mountains, and dammed the rivers. This view of grizzly bears as somewhat of a "flagship" species is reflected in the naming by environmental groups of the large wilderness area of the Central Coast as the Great Bear Rainforest. Certainly there are many other species that inhabit the coastal rainforests from the Upper Squamish Valley north to the Alaska Panhandle, such as blacktail deer, Pacific salmon, and grey wolves, but it is the grizzly bear that is the symbol that is attached to this area by people the world over. It is the presence of healthy grizzly bear populations that displays a preservation and care for our forests to the world, and it is for this reason that there are strong pressures on those who manage grizzly bear populations in B.C. to protect them from future declines in population and range. This is a very complex task, as grizzly bears have very strict habitat requirements, and pressure from all sorts of encroaching developments require care to be taken in the planning process. Today in British Columbia grizzly bears do still exist in viable wild populations throughout much of their historic range. Prior to European settlement in British Columbia ca. 1793, grizzly bears ranged throughout the entire mainland of B.C., save for areas of icefield. While much of their historical habitat has been extensively altered, grizzly bears still occupy the coastal areas of mainland B.C. from just north of Powell River all the way to the Alaska Panhandle. The entire northern half of the province contains large tracts of suitable habitat, as do the Rocky, Purcell, and Selkirk Mountains. The central interior plateau area of the province from Quesnel north to Prince George still contains depressed numbers of bears, while the Southern Interior and South Coast/Lower Mainland no longer has grizzly bear populations (British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Lands, and Parks ,1995).

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