Canada fails to protect grizzlies, killer whales

Two of nature's most awesome predators are quickly disappearing in Canada, and the government seems willing to let that happen.

In Alberta, grizzly bear populations have dropped 60% in just six years, from 1,000 to less than 400. Government scientists said back in 2002 that the bears needed protection as a "threatened" species, but no action was ever taken. Now, the Alberta Sustainable Resource Development says it will not act to recover the species, only to "maintain" it at its currently low level.

Conservation groups say this population level is too low, and that at least 1,000 mature bears are needed to maintain a healthy genetic diversity.

Why did the Alberta government act this way? Well, it seems it was either the bears or oil development. Guess what won?

(A "loud and active off-highway vehicle lobby" also pushed to keep the grizzly from gaining greater protections.)

Elsewhere, conservation groups are suing the Canadian government to protect the population of killer whales off of British Columbia. Killer whales are not an endangered species, although several local populations, such as the one off the BC coast, are isolated and shrinking.

The Ottawa government last month decided not to establish any new critical habitat or recovery methods beyond existing measures.

Killer whales off of BC live in two groups, a southern population with just 87 whales, and a northern population with 240. The southern population has dropped 20% since 1993. Killer whale expert Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard told The Calgary Herald that "For most species a population reduced to 87... they'd be toast. We wouldn't even be considering recovery as a viable possibility."