Meet the boss: Canmore photographer captures one of Alberta’s oldest grizzly bears

Click to play video: 'Canmore photographer captures up close encounter with grizzly known as the Boss'
Canmore photographer captures up close encounter with grizzly known as the Boss
In the majestic Canadian Rockies, he is considered the dominant grizzly — a bear whose 20-plus years has surpassed most lifespans of his peers. And thanks to one biologist-turned-photographer, we're getting up close and personal with the legend. Here's Norma Reid. – Nov 15, 2022

They say a picture is worth a thousand words but for one Canmore-based photographer it was pure luck to have the opportunity to capture “The Boss” yet again.

Jason Bantle, photographer and owner of All in the Wild Gallery located in Canmore, Alta. was out-and-about in the wild at the start of November, ready to capture what nature would show him that day when he stumbled upon fresh bear tracks in the snow.

“Now, at this time of year, you don’t want to go follow a grizzly bear. So I actually followed the grizzly bear trail backwards,” Bantle said.

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After about an hour of exploring and eventually finding a spot where The Boss appeared to have taken a nap in the past, Bantle went back to his car and started to drive down the road when the large bear appeared in the distance.

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“I looked over and I’m like, ‘oh, my goodness!’ And there he was — the back of a bear with snow on it. It was glistening in the sunlight,” he said.

“I slowly backed up, got my camera out and there was dirt flying — he was likely digging for squirrels, (it was) pretty incredible (to see) … I stood there with my camera, looking through my lens, and he popped his head up for about five seconds. And I got maybe just a handful of images.

“I felt really lucky. I’ve only experienced The Boss before like that a couple other times.”

Bantle, originally a biologist, has been photographing wildlife for more than 20 years and knew he had to keep his distance, though he added the bear doesn’t pose for long.

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“He kind of just does his thing, right. He’s like, ‘I’m the boss. I go about my day.’ He doesn’t really have any interest in humans from what I’ve ever seen or heard. And he’s just out in the forest being a wild bear, which is really incredible,” Bantle added.

Being “one of the most impressive animals” Bantle’s come across, it’s no wonder others have an appreciation for the bear. After all, The Boss — or No. 122 to park officials — is not only one of the largest bears in Alberta but also the sire to more than half of the current grizzly bear cubs in the area.

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Sarah Elmeligi, an independent biologist said not only does he get his name from being the king of the forest, he also gets his name due to his age and what he’s overcome throughout the years.

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“He’s probably over 20 years old by now, and that’s pretty old for a grizzly bear roaming the wilds of Alberta,” she said.

“Over that time, he’s really established quite a reputation for himself and he’s also really good at occupying habitats around people without coming into conflict with people.”

Elmeligi explained cubs they’ve tracked with his DNA have a range of more than 2,000 square kilometers. She said it’s likely he sired cubs not only in Alberta but British Columbia too.

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Though if you ever get into the vicinity of the boss, Elmeligi reminds everyone that at the end of the day, “grizzly bears are still grizzly bears” and to not seek them out, but rather let them roam. She said it’s best to leave it up to professional photographers, such as Bantle, with the large telephoto camera lens to capture the creature.

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“Your iPhone is not going to be able to get the same photo that Jason can take, so don’t try.”

— With files from Norma Reid, Global News

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