The grizzly bear – seldom seen, misunderstood and represented only by huge tracks on a sandbar – was but a shadowy presence in the early years of our clubs history. Members of the Pemberton Wildlife Association (formed in 1962) have always admired the big bears which roamed the back country surrounding the Pemberton Valley, but we were in the dark. Where did they hang out? What did they eat? Where did they make their winter dens? We had wandered the local mountains for years and built up a wealth of local grassroots knowledge, but the details simply weren’t there.
All of that began to change in the late 1980s when grizzly bears came into conflict with local cattle producers. Several bears were relocated by the Province in an attempt to diffuse the situation. The best known character of this saga was the bear dubbed “Winston”, who was eventually radio collared and became something of a local folk hero for his insistence on returning to the valley from where ever he had been dropped off.
Our club – affiliated with the BC Wildlife Federation – is made up largely of hunters and anglers who (until recently) depended mainly on forestry and agriculture for a living. Though grizzly bears have been protected from hunting in the Pemberton area since approximately 1965, our members are keenly interested in the species. The PWA became the unofficial local guardians of grizzly bears, along with the valley’s moose and mountain goat populations that are also protected from hunting.
Through the Sea to Sky Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) process, PWA representatives consistently learned more about the grizzly bears and their plight. Genetics tests by Provincial biologists established population estimates and radio collars gave us an insight into habitat requirements. It became clear that there were not as many bears as we had hoped and their habitat was being severely impacted by industrial activities. The LRMP – signed off by the Province in 2008 - recommended the establishment and implementation of a recover plan for grizzly bears. Several years have passed and we are still awaiting the start of that process.
The PWA is committed to work with the Province and other interested parties to make grizzly bear recovery in southwestern BC a reality.
We must honour Winston and his offspring – let’s get on with the job before it is too late!
Founded in 1962, Pemberton Wildlife Association is arguably the oldest association in the Corridor dedicated towards promoting conservation, preservation, and enhancement of wildlife and outdoor recreational resources.