VANCOUVER - It will now be easier for a threatened population of southeastern British Columbia grizzly bears to find new mates with a larger grizzly population to the east.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada has added 150 hectares to a conservation corridor that runs through the Creston Valley, making a safer passage for the South Selkirk species of grizzly as the bears move through the Selkirk and Purcell mountains.
The so-called Frog Bear Conservation Corridor will also benefit the northern leopard frog in the only known breeding location in B.C. for the endangered amphibian.
The cost of conserving two parcels of land is $1.4 million, and includes property that will serve as a gateway for bears moving down from the mountains.
One of the parcels of forested land was purchased from Wynndel Box and Lumber, based in Creston, B.C., and is adjacent to the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area.
A second 85-hectare property is in the valley bottom and will continue to be used for agriculture.
The conservancy's Nancy Newhouse said researchers have mapped out the movements of the bears through the valley and know the corridor is vital for the prospects of the South Selkirk grizzly population.
"The Creston Valley is an incredible hot spot for conservation," Newhouse said.
Experts say connecting the two populations of bears is considered critical for their long term prospects allowing the at-risk grizzlies to find new mates.
The corridor is also expected to reduce human-bear conflict.
"Providing for wildlife connectivity through human environments has become the issue of our times, here in southern B.C. and around the world," Michael Proctor, grizzly bear biologist, said in a news release.
"Enabling grizzly bears and other species to be inter-connected between mountain ranges and across regions might be the single best thing we can do to provide options for species, ecosystems and nature to adapt to climate change."
Several other rare species have also been documented in the Creston Valley, including the northern rubber boa snake, and birds like the great blue heron, American bittern and western screech-owl.