A Review of the Baseline Data Relevant to the Documentation and Evaluation of the Impacts of Oil Sands Developments on Black Bear in the AOSERP Study Area

D.F. Penner
K.H. McCourt
K.E. Smyth
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Three of the tenets upon which the Canada-Alberta agreement for the Alberta Oil Sands Environmental Research Program (AOSERP) is founded are: 1. Canada and Alberta recognize the necessity of improving the scientific understanding of the effects of the oil sands development on the human and natural environment of the Athabasca Oil Sands area. 2. The results of an intensive study of the area will be useful in predicting the effects of any proposed development as a basis for considering future proposals. 3. The results of the study program will be utilized by Alberta in the approval process for future developments and in the environmental design of any project which might be implemented. It is clear, therefore, that AOSERP was established with at least two major goals in mind: 1. To conduct research which will be useful in predicting the environmental effects of oil sands development, and 2. To conduct research which will provide an understanding of the environmental effects of development such that this knowledge may be used in the environmental design of future developments. Development of the Athabasca Oil Sands will affect the black bear population to varying degrees through alteration of habitat, disturbance factors, and increased exploitation. Black bear research in the AOSERP. study area (Figure 1) has not been extensive. One field study documented radio locations of four cubless females in the Fort Hills area (Fuller and Keith in prep.). Young (1978) categorized habitat in all townships within the AOSERP study area from forest cover series maps (1:126,720 scale) and calculated black bear densities. This was a comparative study based on known densities in similar habitats near Cold Lake, Alberta. In addition, black bear research near Cold Lake (approximately 144 km south of the AOSERP study area) was initiated by Alberta Recreation, Parks and wildlife in 1968 and continued by the University of Wisconsin with financial support from AOSERP. Kemp (1972, 1976) and Ruff (1973) produced reports based on this work; however, a good deal of information is, as yet, unavailable. The general objective of this study is to complete an analysis of the applied research necessary to evaluate the responses of black bears to oil sands development. The objective of this report is to provide a review of the available baseline data which are relevant to the documentation and evaluation of the impacts on black bear which would result from oil sands development in the Athabasca Oil Sands area. This review forms the basis of evaluation of the state of baseline knowledge of black bears in the AOSERP study area and a statement of the research which should be completed in order to provide the data; this analysis has been submitted as a separate volume.