Grizzly bear: non-detriment finding

Published 2012-07-05 - Revised 2014-02-17

Re.: Ursus arctos horriblis (Grizzly Bear) Non-Detriment Finding for Canada

Summary of finding

Export of legally obtained grizzly bear is considered non-detrimental.

  • Grizzly bear is harvested as a big game animal species under the authorization of hunting permits or licenses. Harvest of grizzly bear occurs throughout its range in Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and in portions of its range in British Columbia. There is no harvest allowed in Alberta. In Canada, a massive range contraction occurred in the historical past but in recent times the grizzly bear range size has been stable and is estimated at 2 980 000 km2.
  • The 2010 Wild Species General Status assessed grizzly bear as Sensitive overall, and Sensitive in all Canadian jurisdictions except in Alberta where it is classified as May be at Risk and in Saskatchewan and Manitoba where it is classified as Extirpated. Based on the updated 2012 status report of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), there are two designatable units of grizzly bear: the Western Population (Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) is considered to be Special Concern and the Ungava Population (northern Québec and Labrador) is considered to be Extinct. The Western Population is presumed to be stable overall. Habitat loss, habitat degradation, and bear-human conflicts are threats to grizzly bear in Canada.
  • Like all vertebrates in Canada, the grizzly bear is legally protected through various provincial and territorial Wildlife Acts. Under these acts, certain uses of Canadian wildlife are allowed under specific regulations and only with the provision of licenses or permits. Generally, without such a license or permit, the catch, possession, trade, sale, disturbance or destruction of wildlife is prohibited. Regulations also allow for removal of grizzly bear due to bear-human conflict as necessary.
  • Provincial and territorial governments are responsible for the management of terrestrial wildlife. Grizzly bear harvest activities in Canada occur under programs established for game animals and management decisions are guided by planning processes, policy, legislation, trends in historical and recent use, scientific information and Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge. Grizzly bear harvest is managed through an adaptive management framework and is adjusted to ensure sustainable management of the grizzly bear by season, geographical management unit and harvest limit.

Supporting information

Biological characteristics

The grizzly bear is a slow growing, long-lived species with a low reproductive rate, particularly in northern Canada. Grizzly bears are estimated to live 20-30 years in the wild. Reproductive success and survival over the winter is dependent on the availability of food. Females reach sexual maturity on average at six years of age with substantial variation across the range. Females produce a litter every three to four years and the average litter size is one to three cubs.

In Canada, grizzly bears den up to seven months in the winter when food supplies are not readily available, going into a state of metabolic hibernation, living primarily on stored fat reserves. Mating occurs in the spring shortly after females emerge from hibernation. Female bears undergo a process known as delayed implantation. In this reproductive strategy, the eggs develop into small embryos that lie dormant in the uterus. If the bear acquires enough food to reach a minimum fall weight, the embryo will implant in the uterus and the female will give birth in January or February of the following year. After birth, the mother feeds the cubs milk produced from fat reserves for the remainder of the winter, while continuing to hibernate, allowing the very small cubs to maximize the period in which they can gain weight.

Grizzly bears have a large home range, averaging 1 800 km2 for males and 700 km2 for females across Canada. However, the home range size varies widely and is negatively correlated with the general quality of the habitat. Grizzly bears are habitat generalists and can be found from sea level to high-elevation alpine environments. Good grizzly bear habitat must provide an adequate food supply, appropriate denning sites and minimal human disturbance.

Grizzly bears are omnivorous and must rely on a variety of food sources to meet their nutritional needs. Their habitat associations are strongly seasonal and typically reflect local plant development (berries) and species migration (salmon, caribou). In some areas, they are effective predators of deer, elk, moose, bison and caribou.

Human activity is affecting the grizzly bear habitat by causing geographic isolation of populations. Increased human presence results in increased potential foods for grizzly bears, which increases the opportunity for human-bear conflicts. Grizzly bears prefer to be away from human activity but can be moderately tolerant to human activity.


The grizzly bear is listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendix II and was recognized at the fourth CITES Conference of the Parties in 1983 as a look-alike species (parts and derivatives similar in appearance with those of other species). The populations in Bhutan, China, Mexico and Mongolia are listed in CITES Appendix I, for which commercial trade is prohibited.

The Wild Species 2010 report on the general status of species in Canada classifies grizzly bear as Sensitive in Canada, and in all Canadian range jurisdictions except Alberta where the status is May be at Risk and in Saskatchewan and Manitoba where it is classified as Extirpated. These status classifications have remained unchanged from the first general status assessment in 2000 and the second assessment in 2005.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assessed two designatable units of grizzly bear in 2012. The Western Population of grizzly bear (Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) has been assessed as Special Concern and the Ungava Population (northern Québec and Labrador) has been assessed as Extinct.

A massive range contraction occurred in North America including Canada in the historical past but the range of the species has been stable since at least 1990. The grizzly bear in Canada currently occupies an estimated area of 2 980 000 km2, distributed through the Canadian provinces and territories of Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In Canada, the grizzly bear distribution is widespread and contiguous, except in the south of British Columbia where the distribution of the species is restricted and fragmented.

The grizzly bear population in Canada is estimated at 26 000 bears and is likely stable in all range jurisdictions. The breeding-age population is approximately 11 500 bears. British Columbia has approximately 58 % of the grizzly bear population in Canada. The density of the species in occupied habitat varies widely from 3.5 to 75 grizzly bears per 1000 km2. Population estimates have been done and recorded regularly since 1990. The main techniques are capture-mark-resight with or without radio-telemetry, mark-recapture with camera traps, DNA fingerprinting of hairs, Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge reports, harvest and fur returns.

The primary threat to grizzly bear is habitat loss and degradation. Human-bear conflict is also a threat to grizzly bear in Canada. It is anticipated that climate change will affect the habitat and the food availability for grizzly bear but the degree of impact and the proximate causes of the impact are expected to vary throughout the species' Canadian range and may include range expansion in the north.

Note the subspecies in Canada is Ursus arctos horribilis which is also found in the United States of America. Some populations in the United States of America are contiguous with the Canadian grizzly bear range. International coordination and cooperation between Canada and the United States is facilitated through the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, established in 1983 to ensure the recovery in threatened cross border population units.

Harvest management

The confidence in the current Canadian harvest management system is high. The management of grizzly bear harvest in Canada is conducted with the goal of long-term population sustainability, with increasing efforts focused on mitigation of human-bear conflict and ensuring human safety.

Grizzly bear harvest is managed through an adaptive management framework. The hunting of grizzly bear is highly regulated through federal, provincial and territorial legislation. All the range jurisdictions in Canada manage grizzly bear as a big game animal under their Wildlife Acts. Jurisdictional management strategies for grizzly bear are reviewed annually, and adjusted as necessary. To ensure sustainable harvest, hunting is not allowed in some geographical management areas. Licensed hunting of grizzly bear occurs in four range provinces and territories (Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and British Columbia). Hunting is prohibited in Alberta by the Alberta Wildlife Act which lists the species as Threatened. Through the recognition of Aboriginal and Treaty rights under the Canadian constitution, Aboriginal peoples may harvest wildlife for traditional use and in this case the harvest of grizzly bear is low overall.

Specifically, with respect to the threat of human-bear conflicts, policy and procedures are in place in all range jurisdictions to address and report animal control issues. Most jurisdictions operate 'Bear Awareness' programs to educate the public about bear avoidance procedures to ensure public safety while minimizing the need for lethal control of bears.

Control of harvest

Where the hunt is allowed, it is regulated by season, management zones, hunting methods, licensing requirements and hunting quotas. Only lone adult bears can be hunted; it is illegal to hunt bear cubs or adults with them.

In all jurisdictions females and cubs are protected and hunting kill reports and biological sample submissions are mandatory. In Canada, trade in grizzly bear parts, including gall bladders and paws is prohibited. Some exceptions apply to Aboriginal groups for personal or ceremonial use.
A provincial or territorial permit is needed to legally possess, sell and export a grizzly bear or grizzly bear parts, including those killed by an accident or for defense of life and property.

Non-resident hunters (including foreign residents and Canadian residents from other jurisdictions) can only hunt with a guide or an outfitter. Guides, outfitters, fur traders, taxidermists, manufactures and retailers are controlled under all provincial and territorial Wildlife Acts. All are subject to operator licenses, reporting procedures and inspections, ensuring that effective controls are in place which prevents the entry of illegally harvested bears into trade. Jurisdictions and local Aboriginal communities will collaborate when there is a conservation concern, and ensure that appropriate harvest management tools are applied.

In Canada, the grizzly bear is mainly traded as a hunting trophy (skins, rugs or taxidermy mounts). The appropriate jurisdiction needs to issue a permit to legally export grizzly bear in Canada, or internationally, and a CITES export permit is required for international export. In Canada, non-food products from subsistence hunting (mostly hides) are also controlled through this system, but such trade in grizzly bear is low.

Illegal killing and illegal trade is not perceived as a significant problem for the conservation of the species in the range jurisdictions. Evidence suggests that any illegal killing of grizzly bears is primarily related to animal control issues, not to bear trade.

Overall, confidence in the Canadian harvest management of grizzly bear is high as these adaptive management systems allow for strict control of harvest and are reactive to changing conditions, with the aim of ensuring sustainable harvest and maintaining biodiversity.

Harvest trend

Approximately 1.9 % of the population of grizzly bears in Canada is killed by humans each year which represents approximately 500 bears. The average total mortality has remained stable through the 1990s-2000s and is considered to be sustainable. Human induced mortality of grizzly bears includes licensed sport hunting, Aboriginal subsistence hunting, animal control, accidental deaths and illegal hunting.

Harvest monitoring

Jurisdictions implement monitoring methods including compulsory inspections or reporting, mandatory submission of biological samples and proof of sex to determine demographics of the harvested bears. Outfitters are controlled via the issuance of annual licenses and reporting is a condition for license renewal.

In each jurisdiction, licenses and permits are issued to control the harvest, the movement and the trade of grizzly bears, and can be used for monitoring purposes. A CITES export permit is also required for international export.

Incentives and benefits of harvest

Effective species management in Canada is an objective of both governments and harvesters. A sustainable long-term harvest is dependent on stable wildlife populations thereby promoting a stewardship attitude towards both the grizzly bear and its habitat. Hunter, outfitter and trapper activities support rural economies and help to manage the density and distribution of grizzly bears reducing human-bear conflict. Trade incentives are also important to engage local communities in sustainable harvest practices.

Protection from harvest

The adaptive management framework for wildlife harvest management programs in Canada is very effective at preventing over-harvest of wildlife as restrictive measures can be applied if necessary. In general, the species can be hunted in most of the species' occupied range but jurisdictions have the ability to close harvest seasons almost to 100% of this range to achieve specific conservation goals. Depending on the jurisdiction and management goals, the areas where there is no harvest range from 0-100%. In addition to protection from harvest established by management practices, about 7.1 % of the range currently occupied by grizzly bear in Canada is classified as "protected" from human activity by federal, provincial and territorial governments. Several Aboriginal Governments also maintain undisturbed areas to protect the grizzly bears.

However, rather than simply focusing on protecting bears from harvest in specific areas, Canada applies over-arching management strategies that consider the total grizzly bear range, critical parts of seasonal habitat, and habitat linkages.

Jurisdictional Summary:
Province Species present Harvest occuring General Status
Harvest Regulations
British Columbia Y Y 3 - Sensitive Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Management Branch
Alberta Y N 2 - May be at risk Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
Saskatchewan Y* N 0.1 - Extirpated Ministry of the Environment
Manitoba Y* N 0.1 - Extirpated Conservation and Water Stewardship
Ontario N N blank Ministry of Natural Resources
Quebec N N blank Natural Resources
New Brunswick N N blank Natural Resources
Nova Scotia N N blank Wildlife and Biodiversity
Prince Edward Island N N blank Island Information
Newfoundland and Labrador N N 6 - Not assessed Department of Environment and Conservation
Nunavut Y Y 3 - Sensitive Nunavut
Northwest Territories Y Y 3 - Sensitive Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Yukon Y Y 3 - Sensitive Environment Yukon
Canada - - 3 - Sensitive -

* 2012 Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) report

Additional information on Grizzly bear in Canada

Species at Risk Public Registry

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada

General Status of Species in Canada

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