3 grizzly bears in a meadow in Kakwa

Grizzly Bear Program

Providing knowledge and planning tools to ensure the long-term conservation of grizzly bears in Alberta.

The Grizzly Bear Program is not starting new research projects at this time. We are continuing to publish papers and maintain our long-term dataset and GIS tools for our academic, government, and industry partners.

Program History

The fRI Research Grizzly Bear Program was created in 1998 to study the potential impact of a proposed coal mine south of Hinton. Concerns about grizzly bear populations in Alberta led many more partners to bring questions about the impacts of their activities, and the program steadily expanded in scope.

The program’s original study area was located in west-central Alberta, south of Highway 16 with the Brazeau River as its southern boundary. The study area encompassed 10,000 km2.

In 2003, the Grizzly Bear Program began expanding its study area and today has a suite of GIS tools seamlessly covering the entire grizzly bear range in Alberta. We keep these tools up to date for our partners by updating data layers and adding useful analysis features.

Starting in 2004, we have worked with the Government of Alberta to systematically survey and re-survey Bear Management Areas to estimate grizzly bear populations over time.

Over time we pioneered and fine-tuned non-invasive methods of population monitoring. We systematically collect grizzly bear hair, extract the DNA to identify individuals. By looking at how often we see see the same bears, we can estimate the total population

In 2018 when we conducted the first ever survey of the Swan Hills Area. This allowed the province to create a scientific estimate for Alberta.

Today, the Grizzly Bear Monitoring Project is building on this work.

Long-term Advantage

The foundation of the program is a rich, long-term spatial dataset. We use detailed grizzly bear movement data obtained from grizzly bears captured and fitted with GPS collars, health and population data derived from scat, hair, and tissue samples, detailed maps of vegetation and human disturbance, and cutting-edge analysis. When combined, these products represent the most important grizzly bear conservation tools available to land and resource managers who are faced with important decisions regarding land management in grizzly bear habitat.

In 2023, we started a new population monitoring initiative, which can be found here.

Program Lead
Karen Graham
Swan Hills (BMA 7) Grizzly Bear Population Inventory
This DNA mark-recapture study uses hair snags to conduct the first ever estimate of the population of grizzly bears in BMA 7.
Clearwater (BMA 4) Grizzly Bear Population Inventory
This DNA mark-recapture study uses hair snags to conduct the first repeat estimate of the population of grizzly bears in BMA 4.
The Co-existence of a Threatened Population of Grizzly Bears with Quarry Mining in Alberta, Canada
This project will work with local high school students and quarry workers to determine grizzly bear use of the quarry site.
Linkages between forestry practices, ungulate abundance, and the habitat use and performance of grizzly bear in and adjacent to woodland caribou habitat
This project will improve our understanding of how forestry practice is affecting ungulates and how grizzly bears are responding.
Determining How Bears Use Gated Roads
Do gated roads protect bears from vehicle traffic?
Potential Impacts of Mountain Pine Beetle and Management Actions on Grizzly Bear and Caribou Populations in West-Central Alberta
This project will determine how MPB-killed stands are impacting caribou and grizzly bear habitat.
Analysis and restoration of seismic cutlines in Southern Mountain and Boreal caribou range in west-central Alberta
Starting in 2013, this project is looking at how caribou and wolf behaviour is related to cutlines.
Grizzly Bear Handling Knowlege Transfer with the Statlim First Nation in Lillooet, BC
A collaboration with the Environment Program at St’át’imc Government Services (SGS) to improve management of grizzly bears.
Collecting Scat with Citizen Science to Monitor Grizzly Bear Populations
Collecting the DNA from scat is a non-invasive method of tracking grizzly bear populations.
Impacts of New Forestry Approaches on Grizzly Bear Habitat Use and Movement
This project will investigate whether new approaches to forestry can minimize impacts on resident grizzly bears.
Yellowhead (BMA 3) Grizzly Bear Population Inventory
This project uses DNA from hair snags to create a population inventory of grizzly bears in BMA 3 and Jasper National Park.
Grizzly Bears and Pipelines: Response to Unique Linear Features
This project will assist the oil and gas industry and land managers to better understanding the response of grizzly bears to pipelines.
Research to Support Recovery and Long Term Conservation of Grizzly Bears in Alberta
This project develops population recovery targets based on habitat, and non-invasive techniques for monitoring grizzly bear reproductive performance.
Research and applied tools to enhance forest management linkages to Grizzly Bear conservation and recovery in Alberta
This project will use new and existing data sets to produce tools for use in forest management planning related to grizzly bear and caribou habitat use.
Dynamic Regeneration of Grizzly Bear Food Model
This is a GIS tool developed by the fRI Research Grizzly Bear Program that regenerates the spatial grizzly bear food models developed by Dr. Scott Nielsen.
Gord Stenhouse
Gord Stenhouse
Environmental Research Program Lead
karen graham
Karen Graham

 Research Themes

Since 1998, the Grizzly Bear Program has published over 200 scientific papers and graduate theses. While it would be extremely challenging to summarize all the research results, we have grouped program activities into five general themes. Click a topic below to find a chronological list of publications related to that theme.

The Environmental Context

This theme covers mapping and GIS classification, habitat change and analysis, landscape structure, vegetation distribution, and phenology and climate work.

Data Collection

This theme includes population survey methods and the use of telemetry data from collared bears.

Bear Biology

Grizzly bear biology encompasses natural history, diet and energetics, behaviour and predation, and genetics and intraspecific interactions.

Grizzly Bear Health

This theme relates to our our work on capture and handling techniques, body condition and stress, and the relationship between habitat and bear health.

Grizzly Bear Response to Human Activity

This is a very large topic covering: habitat associations and conservation, anthropogenic disturbance generally, roads, human recreation, industry, forestry, mining, oil and gas, climate, and conflict with humans.

Since 1998, the program has added immensely to our understanding of grizzly bears, helped to train the next generation of wildlife biologists, and improved the methods that scientists use to study many species and ecosystems.


Advances of the Grizzly Bear Program

This collection of infographics shows off six ways the Grizzly Bear Program has transformed grizzly bear research and management in Alberta.

Summary of Publications

Over two decades of peer-reviewed papers, reports, and graduate theses for masters and PhD students have left a lasting and living scientific legacy.