Tag Archive: bear

Backlit Bear

Backlit griz version 4 WMA grizzly bear steps out of the shadows in the Canadian Rockies.

Grizz dark cub 64 3yold WMWhile her two brothers flight with each other over buffalo berries and appear oblivious to their surroundings, this dark phase grizzly bear stands up to search for her mom.

Many people in Banff National Park know these bears, as their mother is bear 64 who is one of the most commonly seen grizzly bears in Banff. She prefers to make her living in the wilderness areas surrounding the Banff townsite and has successfully navigated this busy landscape for over two decades.

Even now, with her cubs at 3.5 years of age, they are still very reliant on her to keep them safe and to show them all the seasonal food sources in the Rockies. Grizzly bears here have the longest interval between births of any grizzly bears in the world at upwards of 5-6 years. This is thought to be do to the harsh landscape and reduced food supplies compared to other regions where grizzly bears can be found.

This almost adult sized youngster has always stayed very close to her mother and is never far from her side. In a sign of her growing independence she has started to go off and forage on her own but she always tries to keep tabs on where her mom is. On this day, 64 was off doing her own thing and out of her cubs sight, so this youngest stood up on her hind legs and search the area for her. When that didn’t work she started calling out. Within seconds 64 appeared from the bush and came running over to see what she was being called about. Content that her Mom was back in close proximity, this ‘cub’ relaxed and went back to ravenously feeding on berries.  In the next few months their independence from 64 will grow and they will likely head off on their own or be sent packing by Mom soon.

Coast is clear black bear family WM

Two young of year black bears check to make sure the coast is clear before running off to catch up with mom.

Grizzly 3 year old balanced on log WMJust like a kid (or a big kid) trying to balance themselves while walking along the railway tracks or a parking rail, this 3 year old grizzly seemed to prefer to move between feeding sites by sauntering along a bunch of dead-fall trees than following his siblings through the grass.


Black bear sitting and looking at dandelions WMEven when taking a break from eating, thoughts of fresh dandelions never appears to be far from this bear’s mind!

A grizzly cub appears to smile at the site of berries still available for eating in late October. This very spot is now covered in over a meter of snow and her and her family have long since found a den to comfortably sleep away the winter.

A one and half year old grizzly cub stands up to get a better vantage point of his surroundings. This year has produced a bumper crop of buffalo berries which when coupled with the high snow fall at higher elevations has resulted in the bears staying in the valleys for longer than normal. Having such long and powerful claws is of no use when feeding on the small berries. Instead, they use their very dexterous lips to grasp the berries off the stems. In an average day, an adult grizzly can consume about 200,000 berries!

This spring has been mainly overcast with lots of rain and cool days which has extended the dandelion season in many areas of Banff National Park.  Here a black bear pauses between dandelions before sticking out its upper lip to pluck off the head of the next flower.  With such a short growing season in the Rockies the bears are in a constant state of looking for and eating as much food as possible. Even then, they typically are much smaller than bears found elsewhere in Alberta and across Canada.

Over a 24 hour period in Banff National Park I came across 6 different grizzly bears within a very small area. This accounts for about 10% of the population of grizzly bears estimated to be in the park. This time of year with snow still present at the higher elevations, the bears are concentrated in the valleys where elk calves and fresh dandelions are numerous. This family of bears is well known in the area. The mom, known as bear 64, is a 23 year old bear that is extremely smart and has adapted to life in the busy Bow Valley. She has three yearling cubs, and has been fitted with a radio collar, ear tag and ear tag transmitter to allow Parks Canada staff to monitor her movements. She makes a living in close proximity to people and so knowledge of her movements will help managers understand how to mitigate any potential problems and will also help them determine ways to keep the bears away from the railway. A more in depth article from the local newspaper can be found here. On this day she had to contend with two large male bears (known as boars) who were in the area. If possible, the boars will try to kill her cubs so she starts cycling again and therefore, the family is always on the lookout for these males. In this photo they are sniffing the air as a big male wandered into the area (though I wasn’t aware of this until about 5 minutes later when he showed up). The family quickly dispersed into the woods and the male was more interested in eating dandelion flowers than the female.

After sniffing the area, this big male decided that the fresh dandelions were more tempting than getting into a battle with an equally large female with cubs.

Although this bear was pretty big he was not the biggest in the area. Later in the afternoon, bear 122 (based on a ear tag), a larger, more experienced bear showed up and quickly displaced this bear (known as “Split Lip” due an old gash over the left upper lip), from the area. If the female had been around and cycling it likely would have been a much more combative fight. Instead, Split Lip sprint down and hill and out of range from 122 before any damage could be done.