All to blame in 148 death

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Some of you may remember the peace and quiet 30 years ago here in the Bow Valley.

I do recall that at that time wildlife corridors in Canmore were not an issue. Nor was it a point of discussion in Harvey Heights, Dead Man’s Flats, Cochrane, Bragg Creek nor anywhere else in the Bow Valley.

Why? Because in those days bears and other precious wildlife still had plenty of room to move. Since the Olympics, the unlimited growth we’ve permitted to take place here has swallowed up not only habitat and too much of the ecologically valuable bottom lands necessary for wildlife to move efficiently (their survival and well being depends on this), but has also created an increasingly busy natural landscape for bears and company to negotiate at any time of the day and night.

It is unavoidable today that bears such as 148 that are trying to make a living in the Bow Valley will have run-ins with hordes of righteous, recreating people. The increase we all see of both numbers of international tourists, day visitors and residents moving to the area is one of the bigger reasons why.

The only choice animals have in such a situation is to either flee, or stay and become habituated to humans. Bear 148 chose the latter. In the end, she paid with her life for the trust she put in all of us.

While we’ve known for decades that relocations don’t work, bear 148’s death at the hands of this guide and his hunter, despite the usual “untouchability” of research bears, was a sure act of retaliation due to the successful campaign to finally stop the trophy hunt of B.C. grizzlies. It is my hope that bear 148’s death was not in vain and that many B.C. bears will be spared, starting in November this year when the end of the trophy hunt will take effect.

While in Calgary and area, more and more subdivisions are stamped out of the ground, Canmore is currently only at half of buildout. Can you picture that? I can, but don’t want to.

What the future will bring with this kind of mentality that is entirely based on economical thinking is obvious. We will lose more bears and other wildlife until few remain. We will be left with a pretty and alp-like landscape that, in contrast, is stale, tamed and dominated by the human species, like in so many other locations of this planet.

Over-civilized and controlled landscapes like Scotland, or Tuscany, or the Alps, are treasured worldwide for their natural settings. Yet many of these landscapes are like giant gardens rearranged by human hand, mostly devoid of native flora and fauna. Yet for many, it’s beautiful nature. That’s because we don’t look back and we are so afraid of setting limits to our own species.

The other day I hiked a trail in K-Country. The first two parties I encountered early in the morning in an area that is very good bear habitat were groups with dogs off leash. The freedom that such dog owners provide their pets is paid for with restrictions for all wildlife species and humans alike.

It is the same with the growth that we’re allowing to continue here. The more of us there will be, the less freedom we will be able to enjoy down the road. The expected outcome of such limitless human behaviour in the long term can only be restrictions in the way of limited number of peoples on trails through sensitive wildlife habitat, no-dog areas, no biking areas, wildlife reserves, etc.

If we want to avoid further tragedies such as the loss of bear 148 (and so many before her), we have to start limiting ourselves now. It is not enough to simply continue mourning the loss of such precious members of our valley on a yearly basis without real change that will result in life, not death, for them.

If you agree, call, write, protest, sing songs, create a ruckus and help push our authorities towards such limits. We deserve it and bear 148 would have certainly deserved it too.

Reno Sommerhalder,

Banff

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