Province again moves grizzly No. 148 after several incidents in Canmore

Grizzly bear No. 148 in 2014 when she was first captured and collared in Banff National Park. Photo courtesy: Leah Hennel/Calgary Herald

Grizzly bear No. 148 in 2014 when she was first captured and collared in Banff National Park. Photo courtesy: Leah Hennel/Calgary Herald

 

Well-known grizzly bear No. 148 has once again been moved out of Canmore by the province — this time to a remote location in the Kakwa Wildland Provincial Park.

On Friday, the six-and-a-half year old bear was captured for a second time by provincial Fish & Wildlife officers after several close encounters with runners, hikers and bikers.

"During the period from July 21st until the 27th, we recorded daily incidents," said Paul Frame, carnivore expert with Alberta Environment and Parks in Edmonton. "She was observed in residential areas multiple times, she was involved in at least half a dozen close distance bluff charges, without dogs, including distances as close as one metre.

"Where is the line? If one metre isn't the line, then what is the line? We were struggling with that, because it seems that any closer is contact — and is that appropriate?"

Provincial officials tranquilized her with a free-range dart on Friday, then transported her Saturday by truck and helicopter to Kakwa Wildland Provincial Park, which is about 100 kilometres north of the northern edge of Jasper National Park.

"It's good bear habitat and it's far from people so it will give her the best chance of survival," said Frame, noting they dropped her at a spot where she will have good access to berries and other food.

Research, however, has shown that moving a bear out of its home range can triple its mortality.

"We did an analysis of data we have from 2011," said Frame in response to those concerns. "We had six females translocated and four of those we consider to be successful based on our monitoring of one year. Females had a higher probability of survival than males."

Frame said they replaced No. 148's GPS collar from Banff National Park with a different collar, which will be used to monitor her as part of a translocation study with the Foothills Research Institute in Hinton. 

When asked why the province didn't relocate her back to the western edge of her home range in Banff National Park, Frame said that "didn't work very well."

Provincial guidelines, he said, suggest a first relocation can remain with the bear's home range but a second one should be farther away.

In early July, No. 148 was moved within her home range on the edge of Banff National Park — in Kootenay National Park — after she came within five metres of a man pushing a stroller and walking his dog on a leash.

The province initially said she would be killed if she had another incident, but they softened their stance after meeting with wildlife officials from Parks Canada, which has been informed that she was relocated.

"They deal with the bear on a different landscape, and they have more flexibility," suggested Frame. "It's less complex."

No. 148 has become well-known in Banff National Park, and more recently in Canmore, since she was first collared three years ago as part of a project between Parks Canada and Canadian Pacific Railway to find ways to reduce bear deaths on the railway lines.

Since then, she has had a "habit of huffing and puffing and doing little bluffs" at parks staff and visitors, likely uncomfortable with people getting too close.

Officials with Banff National Park have said they don't consider No. 148 to be a dangerous bear, but they were keeping a close eye on her through her GPS collar and spent many days in Canmore in recent weeks helping provincial officials monitor her movements.

Grizzly bears are a threatened species in Alberta, meaning their survival — particularly breeding-age females — in the protected areas is considered critical.

No. 148 could have cubs as early as next year after she was seen mating with two different males this spring.

She's the daughter of two other well-known grizzly bears in Banff National Park.

Her father is No. 122, also known as The Boss, and her mother was No. 64, who lived in Banff National Park for almost 25 years before disappearing. It's believed No. 64 died of natural causes.

     
    Colette Derworiz