Black Bear Dens on Vancouver Island
BC Nature received a reply from Stephen MacIver, Regulations and Policy Analyst/Fish & Wildlife Branch/Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development, to our July 2019 letter that raised concerns about logging bear wintering trees. Doug Wahl of the Forest Practices Board wrote an excellent response article (recommended reading): Conservation of Black Bear Dens on Vancouver Island
The summary from his article follows:
The complainant has requested that black bear dens on Vancouver Island be protected during forestry operations, like measures already in place in the Great Bear Rainforest and on Haida Gwaii.
Based on information provided by government and professional biologists who work on bears, the Board concludes that there is uncertainty in terms of the population status of black bears on Vancouver Island. This uncertainty underscores the need for more current information about black bear populations and the impacts that the identified threats may be having. Addressing the information gaps, potentially through a population assessment, could help determine if regulation is necessary.
Although there are no legal requirements to protect dens, the Board is encouraged to see the proactive and voluntary steps being taken by some licensees on Vancouver Island to manage black bear dens. In the Board’s view, these licensees could provide some useful insights into the management of black bear dens and the effectiveness of stand-level strategies within harvested areas. For example, where they occur, the practice of including bear-den trees in wildlife-tree-retention areas is a best practice that should be encouraged.
If second-growth forests are harvested before they develop old-growth features, and old-growth harvest continues, the supply of suitable denning habitat on Vancouver Island will decline. Given the uncertainties of the status of black bears and their reliance on old-growth forest attributes—a finite resource necessary for population recruitment—the Board encourages the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development to engage with bear biologists, First Nations, and licensees on the management of black bear dens on Vancouver Island.