The Boss is back.
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Bear 122, the dominant male grizzly of the area, was spotted along Bow Valley Parkway near Castle Mountain on Wednesday (March 22) – the first confirmed grizzly bear sighting of the year in Banff National Park.
Each spring, he typically first heads to the train tracks in search of grain and animal carcasses. He was reported to look to be in good shape.
The first signs of bears out in Kananaskis Country were reported four days earlier, when bear tracks were spotted at the golf course – a good reminder that some bears, particularly large male grizzlies, are starting to emerge from their winter dens.
Darren Robinson, who works in Kananaskis Country, was out for a run Saturday (March 18) when he came across some bear tracks in the snow in the Kananaskis golf course region.
“Before I headed out, I looked at my bear spray and thought it’s probably too early, but then I thought the bears could be out now so I did take it,” he said. “I was pleasantly surprised and happy to have it when I saw the tracks out there. I encourage people if they aren’t already carrying bear spray, to start carrying it again.”
Meanwhile, 122 was first spotted on March 5 last on the train tracks along the Bow Valley Parkway near Muleshoe. First reported sightings of him were March 19 in 2015 and March 16 in 2014.
There’s nothing unusual about large male grizzlies emerging form hibernation at this time of year, but when they do leave their dens in March and the weeks ahead, food is scarce.
They typically spend spring in the valley bottoms – the same place where people love to be outdoors – searching for food. They don’t move to higher elevations until snow disappears and vegetation greens up later in the season.
Wildlife officials remind locals and visitors to make noise when out and about, watch for signs of bears such as tracks, droppings, diggings, torn up logs and overturned rocks, keep dogs on a leash at all times and carry bear spray and know how to use it.
It’s also time for Canmore residents to put away their bird feeders as of April 1 so bears won’t be attracted to backyards and to make sure all attractants, like garbage and recycling, are properly secured.
Jay Honeyman, human-wildlife conflict biologist with Alberta Environment and Parks, said the bear prints reported in K-Country are the only ones he’s aware of at this point, but that doesn’t mean more bears aren’t out and about.
“It’s not unusual at this time of year for the big males to start coming out of their dens,” he said, noting smaller bears will be next followed by sows with cubs, typically mid to late May.
“They are coming out of the den hungry and covering a lot of ground to find food.”
Tyler McClaron, program director for Bow Valley WildSmart, said the sighting of the bear prints serves as a reminder that it’s time to be bear aware.
“It’s time to refresh ourselves on bear spray skills. Make sure you carry it for chance encounters and know how to use it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bow Valley WildSmart and Alberta Environment and Parks will host the annual Bear Day on Saturday (April 8) at the Canmore Nordic Centre day lodge from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. It’s a free, family-friendly event.
Indoor and outdoor activities include bear spray demonstrations, bear talks, a bear trapping demonstration, and a scavenger hunt for the kids. Learn how to camp safely in bear country, and view grizzly bear and other wildlife displays.