Skip booklet index and go to page content

Recovery Strategy for the Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos), Prairie Population, in Canada

Grizzly Bear, Prairie population

Grizzly Bear, Prairie population


About the Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series

What is the Species at Risk Act (SARA)?

SARA is the Act developed by the federal government as a key contribution to the common national effort to protect and conserve species at risk in Canada. SARA came into force in 2003, and one of its purposes is "to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity."

What is recovery?

In the context of species at risk conservation, recovery is the process by which the decline of an endangered, threatened or extirpated species is arrested or reversed, and threats are removed or reduced to improve the likelihood of the species' persistence in the wild. A species will be considered recovered when its long-term persistence in the wild has been secured.

What is a recovery strategy?

A recovery strategy is a planning document that identifies what needs to be done to arrest or reverse the decline of a species. It sets goals and objectives and identifies the main areas of activities to be undertaken. Detailed planning is done at the action plan stage.

Recovery strategy development is a commitment of all provinces and territories and of three federal agencies -- Environment Canada, Parks Canada Agency, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada -- under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. Sections 37-46 of SARA outline both the required content and the process for developing recovery strategies published in this series.

Depending on the status of the species and when it was assessed, a recovery strategy has to be developed within one to two years after the species is added to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. A period of three to four years is allowed for those species that were automatically listed when SARA came into force.

What's next?

In most cases, one or more action plans will be developed to define and guide implementation of the recovery strategy. Nevertheless, directions set in the recovery strategy are sufficient to begin involving communities, land users, and conservationists in recovery implementation. Cost-effective measures to prevent the reduction or loss of the species should not be postponed for lack of full scientific certainty.

The series

This series presents the recovery strategies prepared or adopted by the federal government under SARA. New documents will be added regularly as species get listed and as strategies are updated.

To learn more

To learn more about the Species at Risk Act and recovery initiatives, please consult the Species at Risk (SAR) Public Registry.

Recovery Strategy for the Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos), Prairie Population, in Canada


Recovery of this species is considered not technically or biologically feasible at this time.

Recommended citation:

Environment Canada. 2009. Recovery Strategy for the Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos), Prairie Population, in Canada. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Environment Canada, Ottawa. v + 28 pp.

Additional copies:

Additional copies can be downloaded from the SAR Public Registry.

Cover illustration:

© Judie Shore

Également disponible en français sous le titre « Programme de rétablissement de l'ours grizzli (Ursos arctos), population des Prairies, au Canada »

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of the Environment, 2009. All rights reserved.

ISBN 978-0-662-46833-2

Catalogue no. En3-4/28-2007E-PDF

Content (excluding the illustrations) may be used without permission, with appropriate credit to the source.


This recovery strategy has been prepared in cooperation with the jurisdictions responsible for the grizzly bear, Prairie population. Environment Canada has reviewed and accepts this document as its recovery strategy for the grizzly bear, Prairie population, as required under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). This recovery strategy also constitutes advice to other jurisdictions and organizations that may be involved in recovering the species.

It was determined that the recovery of the grizzly bear, Prairie population, is not technically or biologically feasible at this time. Individual grizzlies still may benefit from general conservation programs on the Prairies, and the species is protected through SARA, and certain federal and provincial or territorial legislation, policies, and programs.

This feasibility determination will be re-evaluated as warranted in response to changing conditions and/or knowledge.

Responsible juridictions

Environment Canada
Government of Alberta
Government of Manitoba
Government of Saskatchewan


Diana Ghikas, Renee Franken, and Dave Duncan; Canadian Wildlife Service, Prairie and Northern Region


The authors wish to thank a number of people who contributed valuable information and/or assistance: Alberta Sustainable Resource Development - Kim Morton and Richard Quinlan; Clayton Apps; British Columbia Ministry of Environment - Tony Hamilton; Environment Canada - Susan Blackman, Robert Décarie, and Marie-José Ribeyron; many thanks to Environment Canada's GIS Section - Gregg Babish, Mark Gilchrist, Gillian Turney, and especially Gary Weiss; Foothills Model Forest - Gord Stenhouse; Bruce McLellan; Mike Proctor; Saskatchewan Environment - Al Arsenault, Doug Campbell, Sue McAdam, and John Pogorzelec; Parks Canada Agency - Mike Gibeau and Joanne Tuckwell, and the U.S. Geological Survey - Charles Schwartz. Special thanks to Judie Shore for the cover illustration.

Strategic environmental assessment statement

A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is conducted on all SARA recovery planning documents, in accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan, and Program Proposals. The purpose of a SEA is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally sound decision-making.

Recovery planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity in general. However, it is recognized that strategies may also inadvertently lead to environmental effects beyond the intended benefits. The planning process based on national guidelines directly incorporates consideration of all environmental effects, with a particular focus on possible impacts upon non-target species or habitats. The results of the SEA are incorporated directly into the strategy itself, but are also summarized below.

This recovery strategy concludes that recovery of the grizzly bear, Prairie population, is not technically and biologically feasible at this time. However, it may be possible to maintain the occasional presence of individual bears from the Northwestern population in a small region of the Prairies, through conservation measures. Alberta Sustainable Resource Development - Fish and Wildlife Division developed a Prairie Grizzly Operation Strategy (Morton and Lester 2004) to address the management of grizzly bears which foray onto the Prairies. No adverse effects on other species will result from this conservation approach.


SARA defines residence as: a dwelling-place, such as a den, nest or other similar area or place, that is occupied or habitually occupied by one or more individuals during all or part of their life cycles, including breeding, rearing, staging, wintering, feeding or hibernating [Subsection 2(1)].

Residence descriptions, or the rationale for why the residence concept does not apply to a given species, are posted on the SAR Public Registry.


The grizzly bear, Prairie population, was designated as extirpated by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in 1991 and was officially listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in June 2003. Section 37 of SARA requires the competent minister to prepare a recovery strategy for all listed extirpated, endangered, or threatened species. The Canadian Wildlife Service - Prairie and Northern Region, Environment Canada led the development of this recovery strategy. It was determined that recovery of the Prairie population of grizzly bears is not feasible at this time owing to a lack of suitable habitat and threats that likely cannot be mitigated. The strategy was developed in cooperation or consultation with the governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. All responsible jurisdictions reviewed a version of the strategy. This strategy meets SARA requirements in terms of content and process (Sections 39-41).

Executive summary

  • The decline of grizzly bear populations during the 19th century was mainly attributed to European exploration and settlement, and the associated introduction of firearms. The population decline on the Prairies was especially severe, aggravated by the eradication of wild bison and the advent of agriculture. Grizzly bears were rarely seen on the Canadian Prairies after 1900.
  • In 1991, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) designated the Prairie population (delineated by the Prairie Ecozone) as Extirpated (Banci 1991). COSEWIC confirmed the extirpated status of the Prairie population in 2002 (COSEWIC 2002), and it was officially listed under the Species at Risk Act in June 2003.
  • Primary threats to the recovery of the grizzly bear (Prairie population) are human-caused mortality, habitat loss, and habitat degradation. To understand the extent of the habitat loss, we assessed the amount and distribution of grizzly bear habitat remaining in the Prairie Ecozone based on an a priori set of criteria derived from peer-reviewed publications, expert opinion, and historical records. Geographical information system techniques were used to identify habitat considered suitable for adult female grizzly bears.
  • There is insufficient suitable habitat presently available to support a Prairie population of grizzly bears. It is unlikely that sufficient habitat could be managed or restored at a scale required to support a viable Prairie population of grizzly bears given past, current, and foreseen human population growth and activities, and the extent of agricultural land use in the Prairie Ecozone.
  • Expansive herds of wild bison were an important food resource for the Prairie grizzly (Nielsen 1975), but no longer exist in the Prairie Ecozone. It is uncertain whether natural food resources presently available are adequate to support a Prairie population of grizzly bears.
  • Recovery of this species is considered not technically or biologically feasible at this time. In accordance with the Government of Canada's Draft Policy on the Feasibility of Recovery (2005), determination of recovery feasibility will be re-evaluated in response to changing conditions and/or knowledge.
Table of Contents