Monday, October 9, 2017

Who Shot And Killed Bear Number 148?

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Headline in The Banff, Alberta Outlook newspaper last week. We wondered if a favorite bear we planned to see was murdered by an over eager hunter.

When we mounted the chairlift at Lake Louise, Alberta last week we noted that one of the attractions was to be able to get up close and personal to Grizzlies. According to one brochure:  "The best Grizzly bear viewing in the Canadian Rockies".   But over the entire morning traverse we saw not one single critter approaching the size and bearing of a grizzly bear, such as this image which was part of the promotion:
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We had thus hoped to get close to the resident Grizzly and her cubs - even if not as close as this image:

Note how the Grizzly is standing up and the tourists are just skimming over the top in their chairlift.. This is about what we expected, but never got. We'd been informed earlier that the "official bears' resident there included a mother Grizzly and two cubs.
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Looking down from chairlift: we saw no sign of Grizzlies. (This is the more scenic view - we covered the shallower area shown above five minutes before).

On landing at the top and making our way over to the Whitehorn Restaurant (for Alberta bison burgers), we did notice the long, 8' high electrified fence - at 10,000 volts - along the path.  We asked a guy at the end about the fence keeping the Grizzlies out - say of the restaurant area- and he told us the bears easily get through if they want. But he hadn't seen the resident Grizzlies for the past two weeks.

Then at the end of last week in Banff, I picked up a copy of the Outlook newspaper and noted the large photo and the ominous words "Bear 148 Dead In Legal Hunt".  Was the female Grizzly we'd been looking for actually "Bear No. 148"?

The story of what became of Bear No. 148 is mystifying in itself. We learned first of all that the animal had originally been in Canmore - a village not far from Banff- but then last summer had been "shipped out"  to Kakwa Wildland Provincial Park. This is about 500 km away (in remote NW Alberta) and followed 148's  encounters "with joggers, bikers, hikers and people with dogs."

Interestingly, the bear had already been relocated once to Kootenay National Park but made a beeline back.  While 148 had spent 90 percent of her time in Banff National Park - according to the report - the last couple of summers she'd made her way to Canmore to "feast on buffalo berries" - but primarily on the south side used by hikers, joggers, bikers.

Since being shipped out of Canmore, data from 148's collar showed she was criss-crossing back and forth between drainages in Alberta and British Columbia (where we visited in 2002).  What ultimately happened to Bear 148? She was shot by a hunter in British Columbia. That is about all we know as details are sparse.  We do know a "trophy hunt" was in effect in B.C.and its ban would not become effective until Nov. 30th.  This suggests the hunter or hunters decided to off the bear before the hunt period expired.

According to Reg Bunyan of the Bow Valley Naturalists, quoted on page 7 of the issue,

"Relocated bears just don't survive. Whether she was hunted or something else, she probably would have ended  up dead. There's 100 different ways to get into trouble."

He added:

"What's frustrating about this is the decision to relocate the bear was a political decision, while the people in the field know that bear relocation doesn't work. We're talking about an habituated bear, which to a large extent didn't have a natural fear of people and - with no exposure to hunting - this is no great surprise in the end."

What we also found interesting is that a week before, in the same Outlook newspaper , we learned of a judge's decision to toss out an attempt to limit population in Banff to 8,000 by scotching new expansions of hotels and developments.  Indeed, we read in the current issue that the demise of Bear 148  should "lead to discussions to improve human-wildlife coexistence in the busy and developed Bow Valley".

The bottom line here is that the more human developments and population expand into bear natural habitat - like the Bow Valley area - the less room there will be for animals. Especially wide ranging beasts like Grizzly bears that need hundreds of square miles as food source territory.

In the words of Canmore Mayor John Borrowman:

"It's disappointing to hear she met her ultimate end through a hunter. It's really shocking!"

Well, then more needs to be done to halt the expansion of humans into bear territory!  The legal motion to try to cap Banff's population at 8,000 ought to have been approved by the judge as opposed to being tossed out. In light of these events, Grizzly bear futures in the Bow Valley don't look very rosy.

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