Skip to content

UPDATED: The Boss feasting on crab apples in Banff, residents urged to chop down fruit trees

“I find it really sad that people who live in town are not invested in doing the best they can to live with those other creatures that live around us."
Bear 122.
The Boss aka Grizzly bear 122. RMO FILE PHOTO

BANFF – The future of The Boss, also known as grizzly bear No. 122, is in the hands of Banff residents.

The patriarch of Banff National Park grizzly bears has been in the Banff townsite feasting on crab apples in residential yards and bluff-charging people in the area.

Fruit trees in Banff pose a risk to the safety of people and the survival of bears –  which often end up relocated or dead once they get a taste for these calorie-rich food sources and repeatedly enter town.

Bob Haney, long-time resident and retired Banff chief park warden, was alerted to grizzly bear 122’s presence in a neighbouring yard by his barking dog on the night of Saturday (Sept. 23) – and he has called on residents to chop down their fruit trees and remove fruit.

“People should be concerned that these attractants could be a death sentence to the bear that’s involved,” said Haney, who is also a former Banff town councillor.

“Bears are going to walk through, but we don't want them staying because of attractants like fruit trees – that’s also for the safety of people walking around the neighbourhood.”

Haney said The Boss, considered the largest and most dominant of Banff’s bears, ripped the hinges off his neighbour’s gate when he first showed up in the Marmot Crescent neighbourhood on Sept. 23.

“He kind of slowly ambled along, a bit cautious,” he said.

"He went over and then laid down at the bottom of the tree and had lunch."

Parks Canada’s wildlife team was on scene quickly and hazed the grizzly away from the residential yard.

“The bear was somewhat protective of the food source that was there. There were a few bluff-charges and then he finally backed off,” said Blair Fyten, human-wildlife conflict specialist for Banff National Park.

“That allowed us to get in there, keep him away, and clean up the apples. We talked to the homeowner and the homeowner agreed to allow us to cut the tree down right then and there.”

After chopping down the tree by about 9 p.m., the wildlife crew reinstalled the gate The Boss had ripped off and set up a cell camera at the rear of the property to monitor if he would return.

He did. At 9:45 p.m., but he did not enter the yard.

“He just looked around, but didn't try to access the yard and then took off,” said Fyten, noting a photograph taken of The Boss in the area around 10 p.m was posted on a local social media site.

Early the next morning on Sept. 24, there was a report the large grizzly was once again in the neighbourhood.

“We got there within minutes and found him just lingering around and we hazed him to the east,” said Fyten, adding another photo around that time showed him at the Minnewanka interchange.

“Then a few hours later, we had a report of him on the tracks out at Valleyview, half way to Canmore.”

By the next morning, bear 122 was at the Banff Springs Hotel golf course.

"He was pushed off of the golf course, made his way up and over Tunnel Mountain, and went right back to this yard,” said Fyten.

Arriving again within minutes of the report, the wildlife crew hazed bear 122 to the west of town this time, towards the Fenlands area and across the Norquay Road.

“We haven’t seen or heard of him since,” said Fyten.

Bears will come back time and time again if they have success in finding a food reward, said Fyten, noting he suspects the smell of fermenting apples likely drew No. 122 to the yard in the first place.

“He was pretty persistent about wanting to come back to that spot, and that generally is what we find with bears if they get a food reward,” he said.

“I suspect that might be the same with 122. I hope he doesn't come back into that location, but you know, there’s potential that he will.”

With a recent council-approved bylaw change within the Town of Banff, municipal enforcement officers now have the authority to issue an order to remove a tree that has proven to attract bears to feed on the fruit.

“Nobody in Banff who remembers the tragic loss of Bear 148 wants to see another bear relocated or euthanized due to easily avoidable human activity such as growing an apple tree in town,” said Michael Hay, manager of environment for the Town of Banff in a statement.

“We have a program to pay for the full costs of removing fruit trees on private property and replacing with a non-fruit-bearing tree, so we can help people make responsible choices.”

Bear 148 was a famous female grizzly grizzly bear who frequented the Banff townsite as part of her home range. She, too, had gotten into fruit trees during her time in Banff, including one on Park Avenue that she went back to time and time again over the course of several years.

While she spent most of her life in Banff National Park, she occasionally wandered onto unprotected Alberta provincial lands in Canmore to feast on buffalo-berries.

In the summer of 2017, she came in close contact with hikers, runners, mountain bikers and dogs almost daily in Canmore.

Bear 148 was relocated to remote Kakwa Wildland Provincial Park more than 500 kilometres away. A short time later, the six-year-old female grizzly was shot and killed by a trophy hunter near McBride, B.C.  – mere months before the trophy hunt in that province was banned.

The Bow Valley Naturalists (BVN) don’t want to see anything like this happen to The Boss, who has managed to successfully carve out a living in the busy and developed Bow Valley for more than two decades.

“I find it really sad that people who live in town are not invested in doing the best they can to live with those other creatures that live around us,” said Colleen Campbell, a member of BVN’s board of directors.

“Our behaviour can imperil each other as well as the lives of wildlife. I don’t think ignorance of the potential can be considered justification.

“We lose way too much wildlife to human behaviour.”

Last fall, Parks Canada was forced to kill two habituated black bears – a mother and her cub – after they fed on multiple crab apple trees throughout town, including in the industrial compound, the downtown core and in Middle Springs.

As of mid-September, about 22 crabapple trees that had been removed from the Banff townsite since 2015; however, a recently revised list indicated there were still at least 34 trees remaining throughout town.

Hay said that during a blitz of residential yards across town last month by municipal and Parks Canada staff, five homeowners agreed to remove their fruit trees this week.

The Town is coordinating this work with a local contractor, so no effort is required on the part of the residents, he said.

“We encourage all Banff homeowners to remove their fruit trees to help protect our local bear population and prevent potentially dangerous wildlife encounters,” said Hay.

The Boss has managed to avoid getting into trouble over his estimated 22 years of life, having only been hazed out of the townsite once before – from downtown Central Park a few years back.

“He generally skirts around the edge of town,” said Fyten, noting he usually travels the train tracks.

“This is kind of the first time we've had him in town in search of food like this.”

Driven by a strong sense of smell, bears are looking for food at this time of year because there isn’t much natural food remaining on the landscape.

“They're out scavenging, looking for other wildlife that might have died, or the wolves have killed, that they can take over,” said Fyten.

“This is kind of that critical time where it's just before den up, their metabolism is slowing down a little bit, but they are still seeking any food that they can find.”

That’s why Fyten can’t stress enough the importance of residents chopping down fruit trees, or at the very least, removing or picking apples.

“We’ve been trying to get this message out there for several years,” he said.

“These apples could be in the centre of town, and if a bear gets a whiff, they're coming.”

Property owners interested in the free program are asked to email the Town of Banff’s environment team at [email protected] for information/support.


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks