Young grizzly bear saved by the joint efforts of First Nations and conservation officers on Hanson Island.

Collaborative approach to relocate the grizzly was applauded by the Minister of Environment calling it a ‘power of partnership’

A young male grizzly bear named Mali, who had an encounter with the residents of Hanson Island in B.C.’s Broughton Archipelago, has been safely relocated to a remote mainland habitat.

The grizzly bear’s safety was ensured by the joint efforts of First Nations, the Conservation Officer Service, local ecotourism operators, the Grizzly Bear Foundation and the Minister of Environment.

In a statement, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, George Heyman, praised the efforts of all involved, calling it “a demonstration of the power of partnership and the desire for reconciliation.”

He further stated that “Working together with Indigenous nations and local residents we have created an opportunity for this bear, and this iconic species, to continue to thrive in a wilderness habitat.”

It is suspected that Mali, named after one of the first Mamalilikulla, ancestors Malilakala, swam to Hanson Island from the B.C. mainland in search of food after waking up from his denning period. In a statement released by the Grizzly Bear Foundation, it is stated that “the grizzly’s incredible sense of smell, up to 100 times stronger than a human,” must have led him across this considerable distance in search of food after hibernation. “This time of year, bears go in search of sedge grass, mussels, and clams to fill their bellies.”

Conservation officers have been long warning residents not to leave out attractants and last year it was legally enforced by Section 33.1 of the B.C. Wildlife Act. It states that people must not leave or place attractants in or about any land or premises where there are likely to be people in a manner in which the attractant can attract dangerous wildlife to the land or premises and be accessible to dangerous wildlife.

READ MORE: No more warnings for Vancouver Islanders who leave out bear attractants

READ MORE: Vancouver Island’s bear patrol is watching your garbage

While Chief Conservation Officer, Doug Forsdick pointed out that grizzly bear encounters in Broughton Archipelago have increased in recent years, they were able to handle this particular situation well.

“We were very fortunate to achieve a positive outcome in what was quickly becoming a high risk scenario for this grizzly bear and individuals in the area,” said Fordsick.

Indigenous Guardian Jake Smith and Tim McGrady of Farewell Harbour Lodge, who was on-site supporting the conservation officers’ efforts, pointed out that had it not been for the well-planned efforts of everyone involved, “This situation could have easily ended up with the death of this grizzly bear.”

The success of the operation to save Mali was not just a logistical effort but for many of the First Nations people, it was also a “highly emotional one,” said Chief Richard Sumner of the Mamalilikulla Nation. “The killing of grizzly bears in our traditional territory is not an option,” which is why the whole operation of safely relocating the bear was “very satisfying” for them.

“Grizzly bears are important to our culture and the economics of the bear-viewing industry. We’re looking to build collaborative decision making with the BC Government on grizzly bear conservation in our territory,” said Mike Willie of Sea Wolf Adventures and a Hereditary Chief of the Kwikwasutinuxw Nation

Over the years grizzly bears have become a keystone species in the umbrella of conservation for other species as well. Therefore collaborative efforts such as the one displayed in relocating Mali are extremely important to set an example of positive outcomes for future conservation efforts. “When we protect grizzly bears, we protect so much more,” said Nicholas Scapillati, Executive Director of the Grizzly Bear Foundation.

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