Fu­ture un­cer­tain for Banff’s Bear 148

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

Her fu­ture is cloudy. When griz­zlies mix too freely with peo­ple, the griz­zlies usu­ally lose.

And af­ter dozens of en­coun­ters with hu­mans, Bear 148 may be sham­bling per­ilously close to that fate as she roams the Bow Val­ley in Banff Na­tional Park.

Bill Hunt, a Parks Canada re­source con­ser­va­tion man­ager, says 148 is just do­ing what her mama taught her: Try­ing beary hard to live and let live.

“This is a bear that, to date, has shown a very mod­er­ated re­sponse,” says Hunt. “She’ll tol­er­ate less than ideal hu­man be­hav­iours time and time again.”

Bear 148 was born 6 1/2 years ago near the moun­tain re­sort town of Banff. Her par­ents were both no­table griz­zlies.

Her mother, Bear 64, lived in the area for 24 years and raised at least two lit­ters.

“She came to be very well known around the Bow Val­ley.”

Her fa­ther is the pow­er­ful and lo­cally dom­i­nant Bear 122, known col­lo­qui­ally as The Boss, who has sired many of the area’s griz­zlies. For two or three years, 148 and her lit­ter­mates - Bear 160, a sis­ter, and her brother, Bear 144 — lived with mom. That’s long for a griz­zly, says Hunt, but in Banff it takes a while to learn how to sur­vive.

“There’s great habi­tat here, but a lot of Banff is rock and ice and it takes bears a long time to learn the com­plex­i­ties of these land­scapes and where to find food at dif­fer­ent times of year.”

Even­tu­ally, Bear 64 died, prob­a­bly of nat­u­ral causes.

“She just didn’t re-emerge in the sum­mer. She either died in the den or died in the fall.” The fam­ily split up.

Bear 160 high­tailed to the back­coun­try, where she re­mains. Brother 144 roamed out­side the park and even­tu­ally got into trou­ble at a llama ranch. He

“This is a bear that, to date, has shown a very mod­er­ated re­sponse. She’ll tol­er­ate less than ideal hu­man be­hav­iours time and time again.” Bill Hunt, Parks Canada re­source con­ser­va­tion man­ager

was de­stroyed. Bear 148 stuck around and took over her mother’s old range in the Bow Val­ley.

She was well pre­pared. Her mother had taught her how to use the cross­ings over the Trans-Canada High­way, how to skirt along the edge of town, how to use wildlife cor­ri­dors to stay away from peo­ple places.

Her mother also taught her about hu­mans.

“(64) was very ha­bit­u­ated and used to be­ing around peo­ple,” says Hunt. “She had fre­quent en­coun­ters with peo­ple and never any­thing harm­ful. And I think this is where 148 has learned this con­fi­dence.

“She was used to see­ing her mother when she was a young cub. If peo­ple got too close, her mother would huff or give a sig­nal and then peo­ple would move off. This is a sim­i­lar be­hav­iour we see with 148.

“She’ll give a lit­tle huff and take two short steps to­ward some­body. Then she goes back to feed­ing.”

She does that a lot. There have been “many, many dozens” of recorded con­tacts be­tween 148 and peo­ple. Staff track the bears by their num­bered ear tags.

Many have been plea­sur­able. Hunt re­cently re­ceived a mes­sage from some­one who watched the bear splash­ing and rolling about in a blue moun­tain lake to cool off.

Hunt has seen her him­self on his morn­ing bike com­mute to Banff.

Oth­ers have been a bit more nervy. This sum­mer, 148 has strayed onto a high school rugby field, charged a per­son walk­ing with a stroller and chased dogs out for a walk with their own­ers. The bear has al­ready been trapped and re­lo­cated to the far western edge of her range, but 148 wan­ders back within days.

No­body likes to think it, but the spec­tre of her brother’s fate is start­ing to hang over Bear 148. Hunt em­pha­sizes that she is not a “garbage bear” that hangs around hu­man habi­ta­tion in hopes of an easy meal.

“She is ab­so­lutely not in­ter­ested in garbage at all. For a bear that spends that much time in and around the com­mu­ni­ties, the fact that she hasn’t be­come hooked on garbage or bird feed­ers re­ally speaks to peo­ple’s com­mit­ment to not mak­ing that food avail­able for wildlife.”


Bear 148, seen here in an un­dated hand­out photo, is a griz­zly in the Banff area whose re­peated hu­man con­tacts are threat­en­ing its fu­ture.

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