Grizzly bear No. 148 returns to national park after incident in Canmore

Grizzly bear No. 148 in Banff National Park in June 2014. Photo courtesy: Leah Hennel

Grizzly bear No. 148 in Banff National Park in June 2014. Photo courtesy: Leah Hennel

 

A well-known grizzly bear from Banff National Park that was captured by Alberta Fish & Wildlife officers after an incident in Canmore is getting one more chance.

On Monday, provincial officials closed an area on the Power Line Trail from Peaks of Grassi Road to the trail leading to Quarry Lake after grizzly No. 148 apparently charged a man pushing a stroller and walking his dog on a leash. 

They caught the six-and-a-half year old female bear in a baited trap on Monday evening.

It led to a debate over what should happen to the well-known grizzly bear.

"Parks Canada and Environment and Parks have decided that the bear will be released in Banff National Park," said an emailed statement from Charity Wallace, a spokesperson for Alberta Environment and Parks. "Grizzly bears are a threatened species so we want to keep it on the landscape, however public safety is our number one priority.

"Should this bear exhibit these behaviours again on provincially managed lands, we will follow the Grizzly Bear Response Guide and she will be euthanized to ensure the public is protected."

The closed area in Canmore was reopened Tuesday afternoon — although there are reportedly other bears in the vicinity.

No. 148, which was fitted with a new GPS collar on June 2 to track her movements, was transported just west of Banff National Park on Wednesday morning.

"She's on her way back," Bill Hunt, resource conservation manager with Banff National Park, said in an interview with Canmore Commons. "We're taking her to a location within Kootenay park. It's on the edge of her home range and we're just hoping it will buy us a little bit of time — in terms of her not getting back into the lower Bow Valley until the berry crop has ripened up a little bit here around Banff."

He said the berries in Canmore have ripened faster than in Banff so she likely travelled east in search of food.

Grizzly bear No. 148 has become well-known in Banff National Park, and more recently in Canmore, since she was captured and 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, Hunt said 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.

"We've been working hard with her in built-up areas," said Hunt, noting she has more recently had a couple of run-ins with dogs.

  • On April 15, she followed a woman on a kick sled, which is a type of dog sledding, on the Spray River trail behind the Banff Springs hotel.
  • On May 7, she chased a dog after it was released by a group of hikers near the Mount Norquay ski resort. 

Hunt said it's normal behaviour for bears to react badly to dogs.

"Bears often have competition for food and resources with wolves, whether it's chasing wolves off something the wolves have killed or wolves coming in to try and intimidate a bear," he explained. "So it's not uncommon for those to be negative interactions.

"Put that in perspective of a grizzly bear — when she sees someone walking with dogs, I assume she's perceiving that as somebody taking the wolf out for a walk."

Both he and the province reminded people to travel in groups, carry bear spray, make lots of noise and keep all dogs on a leash. 

Hunt said they don't consider No. 148 to be a dangerous bear, but they will keep a close eye on her through her GPS collar and stay in touch with their provincial counterparts.

"Both teams are working very hard to keep this bear on the landscape," he said.

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

Hunt said 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