Canadian Rocky Mountains

Grizzly Bear Alert

There is nothing that sparks the interest of visitors (and wanna-be visitors) to Western Canada than the topic of wildlife – but most especially – BEARS!

Many people are lucky enough to spot a Black bear, especially if they are traveling through the mountains in the spring, 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

The federal government (Parks Canada) takes the issue of protecting wildlife and humans very seriously. They spend a significant amount of time and money to educate the public and to put into place measures that will keep animals and therefore, humans, safe. Miles of fencing and bear proof garbage bins are found everywhere. In Banff National Park alone, there is 38 underpasses and 6 overpasses (see below) designed to give safe passage to animals across busy mountain highways. (See example below)


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

Black Bear Alert – What To Do In Case of Emergency

As I said previously, it is more common to see Black bears. They are smaller than the grizzly and have become accustomed to humans and therefore tourists often do not take them as a serious threat. But they can still be 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) have expressed disbelief that such a thing exists. Maybe that is because there isn’t such a thing as “shark spray.”

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.

Oops, I got sidetracked by Bear Spray. Back to the black bear alert. 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. I stopped to get a picture. The 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.

Black bear by our carYou will see that this Black bear was checking out our garbage and recycling which is just outside the kitchen door. The garbage was in a bear proof container and there was no food in the recycling. So there was nothing to keep the bears attention. Nonetheless, we will be storing these things in the garage in the future.

It was an interesting experience because even though Ed and I were safe in the house (pictures taken through the windows) we were definitely slightly intimidated, even though this was obviously a young bear – and very curious.

Also, it isn’t as easy to get rid of a bear as one might think. Even when we made loud noises, it took its time to turn around and leave. Well, actually, it just went to the back of the house. So we went outside to the back (staying close to the door) and yelled and waved coats and banged on pots. The bear finally decided that this was too much noise and it left.

A Visit From a Grizzly Bear

Just a couple of days after the visit from the Black bear, a Grizzly bear decides to check us out.  Although much more intimidating because of its size and reputation, this one left quickly when we made noise. Whew!

(Zoom in on the claws)

Then, a Visit From Another Black Bear

And as if that wasn’t enough excitement, we 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!
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