What is BC without the grizzly?

August 06, 2018

What is BC without the grizzly?

On BC Day, we honour the grizzly bear - a species that is deeply connected to our history, our landscape, and our culture.

Our work is not limited by the borders of this province, but it cannot be forgotten that British Columbia hosts one of the largest populations of grizzly bears in North America, is where our work began, and is where our staff calls home. And though we don’t have the grizzly bear immortalized on our flag like California, it must be acknowledged that the grizzly holds a special place in our British Columbian culture, representing our wild, untouched landscapes and symbolizing our true north, strong and free.

As a province, we take great pride in our wildlife, and grizzly bears are inherently a part of our overall image - so much so that they, alongside other iconic provincial wildlife, adorn a beautiful stained glass window in the BC Legislature. (photo credit: @ecowalker).

The longtime presence of grizzly bears in what is now BC saw them coexisting with the land’s first peoples. The deep relationships that many First Nations share with the grizzly have been interwoven into their art and mythology, and linked to their houses and clans. For some Nations, the bears are seen as teachers, guides, symbols of strength and even considered as possessing human traits.

And grizzly bears are teachers. In tune with the rhythm of the seasons in a way that humans are not, grizzlies have taught us when and where the berries are ripe and the salmon are spawning. They’ve pointed us to the roots and greens that contribute to our diets. They are connected to our ecosystem in a larger way that we are only just beginning to understand.

Those who spend time around bears are in awe of their sheer power, but even more so in awe of the fact that they are not inclined to use it, except to defend. Their shy, solitary nature and capable yet humble attitude resonates with us, connecting us to these creatures on a deeper level - and perhaps demonstrating a path we could be taking to protect the habitats we call home and the food sources we share.

But grizzly bears are not just an important player in our sense of place or our sense of culture. Grizzlies are essential to maintaining optimum ecosystem function on which a variety of other flora and fauna depend. They help to aerate soil as they dig for food, transport marine nutrients deep into interior soils for added nitrogen, and through their feces disperse seeds to diversify plant populations - all integral parts of managing the forests and landscapes for which BC is so famous.

Grizzly bears are an ‘umbrella’ species, inhabiting landscapes that host a range of other plant and animal species and contributing to the processes that enhance and strengthen them. They are also an ‘indicator’ species, as they are sensitive to ecological change and as such the strength of their population reflects current environmental conditions. Their sustainability at the top of the natural food chain is an indicator of a healthy natural environment. 

To us, safeguarding the grizzly bear population is larger than species-level protection. Our work to protect the great bear supports the ecosystems, landscapes, and cultural connections that shape this province. This land is rooted in our hearts, and we want to ensure it remains healthy, biodiverse, and wild, with creatures like the grizzly bear calling it home, for generations to come.

Unless we take serious action now, we may face a future without the iconic grizzly bear. Action is easy - become a Grizzly Guardian or donate today.

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