Grizzly bear on Hudson Bay shoreline, Wapusk National Park Grizzly bear on Hudson Bay shoreline, Wapusk National Park.
© Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship

Wapusk News - Issue 8, 2015

Wapusk National Park (NP) is known for polar bears—in fact, Wapusk is Cree for “white bear.” But there is some evidence that a new bear may have moved into the park: the barren ground grizzly.

The barren ground grizzly is a slightly smaller cousin of the grizzlies that inhabit the mountains of western Canada, and its traditional range spans throughout the tundra of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

Grizzly bear in Wapusk National Park Grizzly bear in Wapusk National Park.
© Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship
Since 1990, people have reported seeing barren ground grizzlies in Wapusk NP, with annual sightings since 2008. Over the past seven years, the number of sightings has been increasing and it is believed that at least two separate individual bears are spending time in the park. In fact, Parks Canada’s trail cameras captured photos of what appears to be a grizzly bear in the park in 2014.

Parks Canada and Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship are working together to find out more about these bears in the Churchill area. Parks Canada has purchased two radio tracking collars and, with Manitoba Conservation, whose Natural Resource Officers have expertise in capturing bears, hopes to collar a grizzly bear. The collars transmit a GPS location that will allow staff to see where the bears are travelling. The information from the collars will be used to confirm that the bears are indeed barren-ground grizzlies, and more importantly, whether they are resident in the park and surrounding area, or merely passing through.

This information is important for park management purposes, and is significant as a permanent presence of grizzlies could impact the park’s ecology. This means that grizzly bears would likely be competing with wolves and polar bears for food and resources. Also, the potential exists for conflict between grizzlies and denning polar bears.

We know that there are grizzly bears in Wapusk NP, but confirming where they are travelling and whether or not they are denning will enable managers to make informed decisions and to address impacts their presence may have on the park and other wildlife that live there.