Call for caution in Banff National Park: grizzly bear has already emerged from its den

A male grizzly bear seen in Banff National Park last week arouses the curiosity of a wildlife expert who questions his identity, while asking the public to be vigilant.

On February 28, a resource conservation officer saw the bear about 50 meters from her while checking trails in this area.

Banff National Park wildlife co-existence expert Blair Fyten said in an interview with CBC radio show Calgary Homestretch that, as a rule, the largest males come out of their dens between mid- March and the end of March. This year, he says, we are two and a half weeks ahead of schedule .

Last year, the first bear to end hibernation emerged from its den on March 19, he said.

This is mainly due to the hot weather. They have the impression that it is spring and they come out of their den.

Blair Fyten, Wildlife Coexistence Specialist, Banff National Park

Bear 122 or 136?

The officer described the bear as just being a “bigger one,” says Fyten. “We suspect it is a large male, potentially one of our known males in the area, he says, referring to the 122 bear, also known as The Boss or the ‘Bear 136, also known as Split Lip.”

According to him, the bear 122 weighs about 300 kilograms and is often the first to come out of its den. He is also well known for spawning several cubs in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks. He also has a huge home range of over 2,500 square kilometers and grew up being relatively used to humans and their infrastructure.

Bear 136, on the other hand, is called Split Lip because of the scars on its face. He made headlines following an incident in 2016 in which he crossed a parking lot and followed a group of about 20 tourists on the popular Johnston Canyon Trail. These people had to run away to escape the animal.

The two bears are said to have returned to their den in November to start their winter nap.

No grizzly bear has been spotted out of its den before February 28 in the past decade, according to Fyten, who adds that the larger males generally come out of hibernation in mid-March and the females in mid- April.

Usually they go out because of hunger, although it is quite rare at this time of year.

Blair Fyten, Wildlife Coexistence Specialist, Banff National Park

Caution

Typically, bears 122 and 136 head to the railroad tracks in the spring for spilled grain, the remains of wildlife struck or killed by trains, notes Fyten.

He asked anyone who saw a bear in the park to report it immediately. He also called for caution and asked visitors to carry a bear spray with pepper spray.

If you do not carry around a bear spray during the winter, we ask that you start doing so.

Blair Fyten, Wildlife Coexistence Specialist, Banff National Park

“There are still a lot of winter activities right now. We have cross country skiers and snowshoers and usually these groups of people don’t expect to run into a bear at this time of year. But, it is entirely possible,” he warns.

People should keep their dogs on a leash to avoid unnecessary attack and should also travel in a group.

Blair Fyten, Wildlife Coexistence Specialist, Banff National Park

Parks Canada asks anyone who meets wildlife to call 1-403-762-1470 or to stop at the nearest Parks Canada information center to report what they have seen.

Representatives will ask questions about the type of animal spotted, its approximate size and color, and whether it had identifiers such as a collar or ear tag.

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