Chilko River Collaring & Trapping of Grizzlies

When I first witnessed the collars strung up I felt physically ill. 20 of them ranging from number 01 – 67! Please don’t tell me they are collaring these beautiful grizzlies! 


Personally, I find collaring wildlife to be an invasive method, I often wonder if people collaring these animals have ever considered wearing one themselves for a long period of time to experience the discomfort, restriction and annoyance of these archaic contraptions. In saying that, I do realize there is a time and place for collaring, especially in high human-wildlife conflict areas. The Chilcotin, this remote wilderness, why???


I’ve been eagerly watching the BearID Project that is aiming to progress the field of conservation technology by developing face recognition software for use in wildlife monitoring. 


Thank you to everyone who has been following along with the story and images of my trip to the Chilcotin Mountains to photograph Grizzlies. I’ve received information that five grizzlies in total were collared: three sows (including Casper) and two boars. As promised, below you will find the notes that I took during our meeting with the three biologists, as well as an email I sent, that to this day, has not been answered. 


Meeting Notes from October 8, 2021

In attendance:

Garth Mowat, Large Carnivore Specialist & Biologist with the Provincial Wildlife Branch 

Shane White, Fish & Wildlife Regional Wildlife Biologist Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development | FLNRO · for BC Fish & Wildlife 
Mitchell Warren – Biologist for TNG


What information are you looking for?


  • – What is the habitat use of these bears?
  • – What areas they selecting?
  • – Are the sows coming out during the days?
  • – Mandate is for a salmon feeding area.


Shane, working with the Chilko Working Group, Bear ecology:

  • – Set up 42 trail cameras in August, will pull the SD card in November.
  • – Looking for activity and spatial reports. 
  • – Working alongside UBCO Professor, Mathieu Bourbonnais, Assistant Professor – Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences.


Population Estimates


  • – There are 50 sub populations – define the areas where they are not connected.
  • – Better understand the movements of the bears.
  • – How far are the females moving and population activity?
  • – Targeting males and females, females are the currency. 
  • – BC has all the grizzlies it can hold.


Why was this area picked?

Because it is a salmon producing area and the grizzly numbers have been low. There is also no information on these bears at all. The link to salmon is very important. No matter the size/quantity of salmon has an impact on the bears. 



  • – Four traps, one currently set up on airstrip.
  • – Traps are not allowed to kill bears. Very few points where a bear can trigger it. Designed so teeth and claws cannot get caught.
  • – Four snares set up in Canoe area (near Rubbing Tree).
  • – Traps will be checked first thing in the morning (note on October 10th, Two TNG vehicles and BC Parks vehicle towing bear trap heading towards canoe at 8.31am – what time were the traps checked the night before???) and at night. 
  • – The traps are satellite linked which sends an email to Mitchell’s boss. 
  • – Casper – Collar #22 was calm, she weighed 170kgs. Once everything was completed, trap opened, and cubs slept with her till she woke up. They didn’t know Casper was Chilko’s most recognized bear. 


How will you protect cubs whose mom has been trapped?

– It can happen, although cubs of the year don’t go far from their Moms. 

– Males usually only focus on killing cubs during the breeding season. 


Drugs used: anesthetic, bear is out for one hour. A sedative (in the valium group of drugs) is also used to calm the bear. 




– Project goal is to collar nine bears – traps will be removed by October 15th no matter how many bears have been collared. 

– Why were there 20 collars hanging that ranged from number 01 through to 067? We will also be collaring black bears and other wildlife. 

– Collars were hanging to test the signals. 

– How long will the collars be on? Boars – 2 years, Sows – 3 years. 

– Collars also give a mortality signal. Two main causes of deaths for grizzly bears is people and other grizzlies. 


Why was Tsylos Park Lodge not informed of the collaring, when it will clearly impact their Bear Viewing business?

There was the initial meeting in August, we were waiting for funding and then permits. Only found out last week that we would be going ahead. 


Will findings be public?

Reports will be done that are shareable. 


Garth, a respected and well-known biologist is not leading the project, he’s just getting it started. What is the experience of Mitchell? 

Trained on the traps, no practical experience. 


Chef – Local dog trapped today, what are you going to do to prevent this from happening to my dog?

There’s nothing we can do. Can you chain up your dog? Gary’s response: He would strangle himself.

Casper before being collared.
Trap triggered with Casper inside.

Email to Biologists

Dear Garth, Shane & Mitchell, 


Thank you for taking the time to meet with our group at Tsylos Park Lodge on October 8, 2021 to discuss the bear trapping and collaring study. I was the person who was forthcoming with my concerns of trusting the expertise and ethics of Garth, and worried that he was not managing the project. 

I would like to share further concerns that I didn’t communicate that afternoon. 
For several years I’ve dreamed of going to the Chilcotin to observe and photograph the grizzlies there. My assumption and hope coming into this trip was that I would be in a wild and remote place, free of all the chaos, politics and uncertainty in our world right now. As a guest of Tsylos Park Lodge, and participant in John E. Marriott‘s Chilcotin Grizzlies Photography Tour, I invested a lot of money into this experience. 
Seeing the collars and the traps was deeply disturbing, especially having spent time observing the majestic bears and their cubs go about their days free of human intervention or exploitation. What alarmed me even further, as I stated at our meeting, was that our guides nor Karen McLean were not informed of this study going ahead. 
Listed below are my questions and concerns:
Welfare of the Bears
In my observations there were 17 bears in total that I was privileged to observe and photograph, each with their own unique personalities:
  1. – Casper and her two cubs of the year – placid, easygoing, gentle.
  2. – Large Sow with three cubs of the year – the sow was relaxed and calm, two of her cubs were extremely timid and almost panicky if they were separated from their mom. 
  3. – Small Sow with three cubs of the year – a tight little unit who each time I saw them were very close together. 
  4. – Large Sow with three yearlings – active, playful and bonded.
  5. – Single Sow – one focus: food, slow and very large.
  6. – Single Boar – briefly seen once, extremely cautious and did everything to avoid being seen. 
Given these observations, I am deeply concerned about the welfare and safety of the cubs of bears 1 through to 3. I am filled with doubt about any consideration given to the welfare of the bears, not to mention local pets and other animals. 
Location of Traps
  • Traps located close to the river alarm me. Given the amount of time sedation takes to wear off, there is a risk of groggy bears drowning in the river.
  • I witnessed your three vehicles enter the area close to the Rubbing Tree, you also indicated there were snares in this area. This is a sacred spot that generations of bears travel to. Our guide Ben, showed us the embedded grizzly paw prints, deepened in the earth from years of bears following the same route. I observed bear 4 and her yearlings follow these exact prints. The placement of traps here is an invasion on a safe and special place. 
Monitoring of Traps
Hearing you share that the traps would be checked in the morning and evening was concerning. What time is the evening check? I’m going to assume based on my personal observation of your vehicles driving by the lodge, that you check around 4:30pm. The morning your three vehicles moved one of the traps, I witnessed you drive by the lodge at 8.33am. That is 16 hours that a bear would be trapped, stressed, without food and water, not to mention the stress on any cubs. 
I’ve already expressed my disdain for collars. It angered me even further to hear that you plan to keep the collars on boars for two years and sows for three years. Why so long? Please re-consider the length of time these poor bears need to wear them. 
Impact on Local Businesses
Businesses across the world are struggling due to current events. The Tourism Industry is one sector where the impact is devastating. People come to this area to view wildlife in a remote and wild place. In my opinion your study is potentially destructive to Tsylos Park Lodge and their Bear Viewing / Photography offerings. I was considering bringing my husband next year, however, the thought of seeing Casper and the other bears I’ve observed collared is heartbreaking, and not something I want to pay to see. If I feel this way, how many others will feel the same? Tsylos and other tour operators should be compensated for the negative impact your study will have on their livelihood. Is there any plan to compensate these businesses?
Sensitive Location Information
There is always a risk that specific locations of wildlife can fall into the wrong hands. With all the disdain and hatred in the media towards Apex Predators, what happens if the location of a bear’s den is found? How are you ensuring that this information is safeguarded?
Funding & Planning 
  • Who is funding this study, and what permits were granted? 
  • The timeline shared, as well as the reasoning of “not knowing till last week,” for not sharing with Karen McLean – causes me concern with regards to the feeling that this study is not well thought out and planned. 
Please respond with how you plan to address my concerns and questions. 
Thank you for inviting us to express our questions and concerns in this manner. 
My hope is that you seriously consider suspending this study until you consider all the questions and concerns from our group as well as the impact on local businesses – in particular Tsylos Park Lodge. 

In the image above captured by Tsylos Park Lodge Guide, Josh Reimer, after we had departed, shows Casper with a collar. 


I’ll let you decide, does that look comfortable?