Tag Archive: grizzly bear


Backlit Bear

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

Advertisements

Grizzly mom and cub mountain landscape wm 960

One could be forgiven for thinking that even the grizzly bears in Banff take a break from their daily routines to appreciate the mountain scenery. While I will never discount the fact that other animals can appreciate their surroundings, what’s more likely is that this bear is smelling the air for any potential threats or food options.

I took this photo last month near one of the most popular places in Canada; Lake Louise.  Bear 138 as she is known to park biologists, was feasting on one of the only spring food sources available to the bears; dandelions. Imagine how many dandelions a 150-200kg lactating grizzly bear would need to eat to produce enough milk to feed her two cubs?  Needless to say, it’s a staggering amount. When they enter their hyperphagic state later this month, they eat about 35,000 calories a day.  To put that in perspective, the average person eats about 2000 calories daily!  Almost all of these calories are from berries, with a single bear eating between 200-300,000 berries per day to put on enough fat to survive the winter. That’s the equivalent of you or I eating 63 hamburgers daily! Yet these bears suffer no heart disease or complications association with high cholesterol.

This only touches the tip of the iceberg of all the interesting adaptations of bears, but I hope you agree that these are amazing animals and deserving of our respect and protection.

 

Play Time

Grizzly cub and mom playing WM

A grizzly bear mom takes a break from eating dandelions to play with one of her tiny cubs born earlier this year.  With the grizzly bear population threatened in Alberta, it’s been great to see at least three grizzly sows in the Rockies with new cubs this year.

Grizzly snow WMAn adult male grizzly bear plows through 10 centimeters of snow in minus 10-15 degree Celsius temperatures. While the females and young cubs are already tucked away in their dens, these big males are still out looking for food to pack on the pounds so they can compete against the biggest males for breeding opportunities in the spring.

For the past several years I have tried in vain to get a good photo of a grizzly bear in snow. I have run into them as late as December, always either really early in the morning or late at night. All of that changed when this bear lumbered out of the forest in the middle of the day. He wander back and forth following the tracks of a pack of wolves that had been in the area earlier in the morning. Most likely he was trying to determine if the wolves had made a kill. Being the biggest predators in the Rockies, they will follow wolves and steal away their kills through brute force but on this day the bear came up empty handed. With his nose covered in snow, he plodded along weaving a route back and forth through the forest before giving up and moving on.

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.

Khutzeymateen river grizzly WMI was recently a naturalist with Classic Canadian Tours to the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary on the North coast of B.C. The park is the largest remaining intact coastal temperate rainforest in the world, can only be accessed by boat or float plane and was specifically set aside to protect grizzly bears and their habitat. About 50 grizzly bears call this park home, which is the about the same number that live in all of Banff National Park. That may not sound impressive at first, but the Khutzeymateen is 16 times smaller in area than Banff!  As such it has one of the highest concentrations of grizzly bears in North America and if you time it just right the bears are on almost every beach that you come across.

They come down to the huge estuary almost everyday at low tide from late-spring to mid-summer to feast on crabs, clams, sedgegrass and whatever else they stumble upon. In the 2 hours we were in the park we came across 7 grizzly including a mom and cub that play fought along the shore as we watched from the boat! On the way to and from the park we also saw breaching humpback whales that had just started to return from the north to feed on the abundant herring, lounging harbor seals, stellar sea lions, bald eagles fishing for the salmon and countless other coastal bird life. It was an incredible day of wildlife viewing!

To give you an idea of the habitat I chose this photo of the rainforest and one of the many rivers feeding into the estuary. A grizzly bear appeared at the edge of the river and seemed to be checking it out for any returning salmon.  In a few weeks the bears will be farther inland feasting on all the spawning, dead and decaying salmon trying to put on as much fat as possible for their long winter sleep.  A truly very unique place.

If you are interested in seeing the Khutzeymateen but can’t afford to be away for very long or the expense of a multi-day trip, Classic Canadian Tours has day tours from both Calgary and Edmonton that are sure to sell out again in 2014. Dates will be announced soon so stay tuned!

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.

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!

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.