Bear 148 has been “trans-located” 500 kilometres northwest of her home after a week of daily human encounters, with the best-case scenario that she settles down in the Kakwa Wildland Provincial Park and starts a new life next spring with the cubs she’s expected to birth over the winter.
“It’s good bear habitat which should increase chance for survival and it’s very remote, which should minimize chance of conflict with humans,” said Paul Frame, carnivore specialist with Alberta Environment and Parks’ Fish and Wildlife Policy Branch, of the area about 100 kilometres north of Jasper National Park.
“There was a lot of effort between Banff National Park and Environment and Parks and the Town of Canmore to mitigate the situation before having to trans-locate her.”
A “trans-location” refers to a long-distance relocation outside of the bear management area that an animal resides in, Frame explained. Bear 148 had already been relocated to the western edge of her home range earlier in July, but she basically bee-lined the 50 kilometres back to the Canmore area.
“Canmore is a world-class example of coexistence with all wildlife and grizzly bears as one of those species,” Frame said. “Yet… here is this animal living in a town, coming within one metre in a defensive or aggressive manner, on a daily basis. I think that kind of highlights the level of risk that we were dealing with.”
Watch below from May 15: Naturalist and former superintendent at Banff National Park Kevin Van Tighem joins Global Calgary to discuss why Bear 148 seems to have no fear of humans.
The incident Frame referred to was an encounter with a man on July 27. Frame said the man was out for a morning run along the Grassi Power Line when he saw the grizzly about 10 feet (3 metres) away.
“She closed to within one metre, he fumbled with his bear spray, she stopped and retreated,” he said.
Frame said it was the last of daily human encounters that started July 21 and ended with the decision to trap her (July 28 in the Canmore area) and relocate her (which happened over the weekend).
One of those encounters involved her pursuing a mountain biker for between 10 to 30 metres; another involved a jogger at the Canmore Nordic Centre.
“All of a sudden… the runner heard crashing in the bush behind her and the bear was coming at speed out of the bush in her direction,” Frame said. “She screamed and ran down the hill… So she fell, tumbled a bit, she fell several times and when she was in the… coliseum area I believe they call it, and looked back, the bear wasn’t there anymore.
“So she’s had numerous encounters with people where she hasn’t made contact. But if she does, the public safety risk is quite high.”
Watch below from May 12: An unexpected spectator appeared at a rugby practice in Banff.
Parks Canada says its staff and provincial officials have been working together over the past weeks to monitor and manage Grizzly Bear 148.
“All government land and resource managers must make difficult decisions to balance the safety of residents with the needs of wildlife,” Parks Canada spokesperson Christina Tricomi said in a statement Monday. “The province of Alberta made such a decision in relocating Bear 148.”
Frame says there’s a high likelihood she’ll settle into her new home in northwest Alberta.
“Bears will home and travel long distances, although it generally takes multiple years to travel a distance that far and generally it’s male bears who do that more so than females.”
Frame said an analysis of trans-located radio-collared bears spanning from 2004 to 2011 showed four of six females survived without coming into conflict for the year they were monitored. One did not survive and the other was in a human-bear conflict, Frame said.
“We do expect that she’ll adjust and sort it out.”
The province has said it has used a successful balanced approach to managing grizzlies as a threatened species since 2010. Twenty-seven have been relocated in the last seven years; only one has been euthanized between Kananaskis and Cochrane.
Bear 148 used to spend up to 95 per cent of her time within Banff National Park. Parks Canada previously said her home range extended into Canmore as well as in and around the Bow Valley.
She made headlines earlier this year trying to join a Banff high school rugby practice, after she followed a woman kick-sledding with two dogs, and then when hikers on Mount Norquay released their dog near her.