Bear 104 loses cubs to large grizzlys
Wednesday, Jul 08, 2015 03:53 pm
A prominent 12-year-old female grizzly bear in Kananaskis Country is proving to be a successful producer of cubs, but she’s still learning the ropes in trying to protect her young ones.
Collared bear 104, whose home range does include busier front country areas, has produced four sets of cubs since 2009. In total, there have been eight cubs and so far five have died.
Provincial conservation officers say the cause of some of the cub deaths are unknown, but in some cases her offspring have been killed by other bears.
“She seems to be a good producer, it’s just the success,” said Arian Spiteri, a conservation officer with Kananaskis Country.
“She’s getting older and she’s becoming more mature and with time will probably learn how to avoid larger males. It’s not that she’s a bad mom, she’s just learning.”
Bear 104 was first captured and collared in 2006. Her home range includes areas around the Kananaskis Lakes, Highwood Pass and into Spray Valley.
She was filmed on camera in 2013 mating with a large male, and emerged from the den in 2014 with three cubs in tow. However, she was down to two cubs within a couple of days after emerging from the den.
This spring, 104 showed up in her usual places with two yearling cubs, but it’s believed a large male grizzly killed one of those cubs last week, sometime on June 30 or July 1.
A collared male bear known as 157 was in an area north of the Highwood Pass area at the same time.
“We don’t know for certain, but we suspect that yearling cub was killed by a male. The timing and locations of the two bears coincide, and the next morning she was seen with just one cub,” said Spiteri.
“It’s the tail end of mating season and male bears do kill yearlings or cubs that are travelling with females. They do it out of a drive to reproduce and possibly to even eat. When a female loses her cub, that can induce the female into estrus and make her able to mate again.”
In 2011, bear 104 also had another set of three cubs, one of which died within the first season. Conservation officers know the whereabouts of one of those surviving offspring, but not the other at this point.
In 2010, she had one cub which did not survive. The cause of death is unknown.
The year before that, she also produced just one cub. That cub was killed during a fight between 104 and another well-known female bear, 94, who has also since died. The fight was caught on film.
While it is common for male bears to kill cubs, it is rare for other female bears to attack and kill another female’s offspring.
“The first cub she had was killed as a result of the fight. I think it had a broken back from the fight,” said Spiteri. “It’s very uncommon for a female to attack and kill another bear’s cub. It was a rare incident. We don’t know what the motivation was.”
Spiteri said they believe female bears like grizzly 104 use more developed areas in Kananaskis as a refuge from male bears.
“She tends to travel close to our developed areas and we believes it’s a strategy to avoid male bears,” she said.“They tend to concentrate in these areas, we presume, because they are seeking refuge from larger males that might try to kill them.”
Currently, there are four bear warnings in place for campgrounds in the Kananaskis Lakes area – Boulton Creek, Interlakes Lower Lake, Mount Sarrail – as well as the Lower Lake day use area.
The closure went into effect July 1 because there’s a sub-adult male bear in the area, feeding on vegetation in close proximity to people.
To avoid a surprise encounter with a bear, make lots of noise and travel in groups, be aware of surroundings and look and listen for bears and their signs, keep pets on a leash, and carry bear spray and know how to use it.
Spiteri said campers also need to make sure all attractants, including food and garbage, are store properly.
“You can encounter bears anywhere, at anytime,” she said.
Report all bear sightings in Kananaskis and around Canmore to 403-591-7755. In Banff, report bear sightings to Parks Canada at 403-762-1470.