Grizzlies active near Banff townsite
A big male grizzly that honed in on weaknesses in Banff’s food and waste handling systems – and feasted on steak bones and corn cobs at a local landfill – has since been roaming widely.
Parks Canada officials say bear No. 122, which is fitted with a GPS collar, did return to the biosolids site at Castle Junction not long after the Town of Banff erected an electric fence on May 4.
“He spent several hours in the area, but we don’t know what transpired while he was there,” said Steve Michel, human-wildlife conflict specialist for Banff National Park.
“He subsequently left the area so we’re hoping that’s an indication that the fence was effective in keeping him out.”
Bear 122 is the first grizzly to be fitted with a GPS collar as part of a Parks Canada-Canadian Pacific Railway research project aimed at reducing human-caused grizzly bear mortality, particularly on the train tracks.
The GPS collar allowed wildlife officials to discover that the bear had been at the biosolids site – which is actively managed by the Town of Banff – for 72 straight hours from April 21-24.
Kitchen compost mixed with biosolids at the town’s wastewater treatment plant – and then transferred to the Castle Mountain site – had not properly broken down.
In recent times, Michel said, bear 122 travelled over Elk Lake Summit and dropped down into the Cascade Valley before making his way to the Minnewanka area and Fairholme benchlands.
“He’s a classic, large male grizzly that can cover a lot of ground in a hurry,” he said. “He’s spent a lot more time in the Bow Valley along the transportation corridor.”
On Tuesday (May 15), the grizzly managed to get into another culvert trap, which are baited with meat carcasses. Michel said he was released that morning.
“He wasn’t handled. We just opened the trapdoor and let him out,” he said. “He’s a big confident animal; he’s a nice looking bear.”
The collaring and trapping research program was approved April 16 – and Parks Canada has stepped up its efforts earlier this week to catch bears.
Two methods for the capture and handling of grizzly bears were approved for this research study, including culvert trapping and darting free-ranging bears.
Following recommendations from Parks Canada’s animal care committee, leg-hold snaring will be reserved only for grizzly bear capture in situations involving human-wildlife conflict.
Tom Hurd, a wildlife biologist for Banff National Park, said the project team agrees with the recommendation in order to reduce the risk of injury to bears.
“But we acknowledge that attaining our target sample of 10 to 12 bears will become more difficult and require more effort,” he said.
“To this end, our capture team will begin a six-week effort to capture and fit several bears with GPS collars starting (this week).”
Meanwhile, the celebrity female grizzly known as bear 64 has emerged from her winter’s den with three yearling cubs in tow.
The first sighting of the 22-year-old grizzly, which is highly tolerant of people and human development, was on May 5 near the Cave and Basin and Marsh Loop.
Michel said she was seen again on Sunday (May 13) crossing Mountain Avenue towards the Rimrock, and then crossing back again the next day in the other direction.
“The yearlings look like they are very healthy,” said Michel.
“She’s a lot skinnier than I would like to see, but that’s the way it goes if she’s nursing three rapidly growing yearlings.”
Bear 64 was first captured as part of a research project in June 1999. She has an ear tag labelled 114, but is still referred to as bear 64.
She was essentially unknown to wildlife managers back in 1999, but a tooth taken back then put her at 10 years of age.
It was determined at that time she had not yet had cubs, but in the following years she has produced two litters of cubs, possibly three.
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