Canadian Rocky Mountains Series

Grizzly Bear Alert

Black bear, brown bear, grizzly bear! There is nothing that sparks the interest of visitors to Western Canada than the topic of wildlife – but most especially bears. The nearby Rocky Mountains are full of bears and if you travel through in the springtime you are sure to see some. Because we live in the foothills of the Rockies, we see them on our property as well. This past year was a stellar year for bear spotting.

If traveling through the Rockies in the springtime, you will most likely spot a black bear. But it isn’t often that you manage to catch sight of a grizzly in its natural habitat. And that is exactly what happened to me recently. I was so excited that I talked about it for days. Of course I was safe in a car. (It would have been most foolish to get out of the car.) Not only did this Mama Grizzly have cubs to protect, but Grizzlies can be aggressive and fast. Check out this short video clip.

Two of the Grizzly’s most distinctive features is its 2-4 inch claws on its front paws and the hump on its shoulders. When you stop at the tourist information office in Radium, you will get to see a display of the animals that you might encounter in the Rocky Mountains. You will recognize the Grizzly Bear to the left and in the picture to the right is a mountain goat and a bighorn sheep.

Wildlife Crossings and Bear Bins in Banff National Park

Parks Canada is serious about protecting wildlife and humans so that they can exist harmoniously in the same environment. To that end, they make efforts to educate the public about safety around wildlife. The goal is to keep humans and wildlife separated. Thus, miles of fencing and bear proof garbage bins are found everywhere. In Banff National Park alone, there are 38 underpasses and 6 overpasses (see below) designed to give safe passage to animals across busy mountain highways. (See example below)

FACT

In 2012, eleven species of large mammals have been recorded using wildlife crossings more than 150,000 times since 1996. This includes grizzly and black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars, moose, elk, deer, bighorn sheep, and more recently wolverine and lynx.

Grizzly Bear Refuge in Golden, B.C.

A few years ago, Ed and I were in Golden, BC, and we visited the Grizzly Bear Refuge. Here we were able to observe the Grizzly bear (from behind a chain link fence) while we listened to a presentation by a ranger. I loved having a closer (and safer) look at the Grizzly Bear, but I did feel that it gave one too much of a feeling that the bear was “cute” instead of “wild.” 

Just click on any of the pictures below to view in a larger format.

Black Bear Alert – What To Do In Case of Emergency

It is more common to see Black bears. In fact, in some locations they have become accustomed to humans and therefore tourists often do not take them as a serious threat. But they are still dangerous. Just try getting between a mama and her cub and you will see what I mean. However, if you leave them alone, they try to leave you alone too.

No Surprises Please

The main thing is not to surprise a bear. They don’t like that. That is why when you are hiking in an area where there might be bears, you want to make some noise. Now, a peaceful walk isn’t always conducive to noisy chatter, so it is a good idea to wear a bear bell, which remembers to make noise, even when you fall into a nature induced meditative state.
Right: Here is another handy tool to have in your arsenal. Pepper Spray! This is my cannister of Bear Spray (aka Pepper Spray) – useful if attacked by a bear – or perhaps a less lethal way of dealing with a human intruder.

I really had to add a picture of bear spray because, on more than one occasion, people from other countries (maybe Australia, for example – wink) have expressed disbelief that such a thing exists. Canadians are know for their wry sense of humor, after all.

So, as further proof, I am showing you a picture of a poster on a storefront advertising that bear spray is sold inside. I am actually showing two pictures because the one has too much sun glare, but it is scarier so I wanted to show it anyway. The second one is silly because it just looks like the bear is waving at you – albeit with 2-4 inch claws.

I was traveling through the  mountain early June – a good time to travel if you want to see wildlife – and we saw a black bear feeding by the side of the road. On that same trip we saw elk up close. See a later post for this.

Notice how this black bear has some bare patches (no pun intended) due to losing his winter fur.

Black bears in Alberta spend 5 to 6 months in winter dens and lose 10 to 30 percent or more of their body weight. They do not eat, drink, defecate or urinate during the entire denning period and the intestinal tract becomes blocked with a fecal plug until the bear emerges in spring. (Alberta Fish and Wildlife)

A Little Closer to Home

People often ask us if we have seen bears on our property. We usually say “no.” Today, however, I can say positively “YES – we do encounter bears on our property.” And I now have the pictures to prove it.

This young Black bear was checking out our garbage and recycling, even though the garbage was in a bear proof container and the recycling was clean. So there was nothing to keep the bear’s attention. Nonetheless, we will be storing these things in the garage in the future.

This young bear lacked the caution of old age and his curiosity made it difficult to get rid of him. He resisted our loud yelling but finally left when he got tired of the noise. Older bears, being wiser, will leave more easily.

A Visit From a Brown Bear

Just a couple of days after the visit from the black bear, a brown bear decides to check us out.  Initially I thought it was a Grizzly but a side view shows the absence of the telltale hump.  This one left quickly when we made noise. Whew!

Then, a Visit From Another Black Bear

And as if that wasn’t enough excitement, we soon had another visit from another Black bear. I saw him as I looked out of a west window. He was the largest yet. What a beauty!

Well, that is enough about bears for now – at least my own experience of them. I will leave you with a little humor, in case you didn’t appreciate mine. I found this sign near Fort Steele, B.C.

This is Canadian humor, at its best, folks.

I will be continuing my journey through the Rocky Mountains as we travel down Hwy 93, along the Kootenay River. There we will pass through quaint towns and encounter more wildlife. See you soon!