A large male grizzly that ate a black bear in Banff National Park last week caused closure of a second popular trail after it was found feasting on an elk carcass near Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park.
Bear 122 was found feeding on an elk 15 metres below the Marble Canyon trail on Thursday (Aug. 29), forcing Parks Canada to close the area and evacuate several hikers off the trail.
Brianna Burley, human-wildlife conflict specialist with the Lake Louise Yoho Kootenay field unit, said the closure was necessary as it aided the bear and kept the public safe.
“It was a great opportunity for him to feed on the carcass and he causes a safety concern for visitors and staff, so we closed the area,” Burley said.
Wolf tracks are also prevalent near the kill site, so there is a chance the bear didn’t kill the elk, but simply scavenged on the remains.
“We’re not sure how the elk died, but we don’t assume the bear killed the elk. He fed on him for five days.”
The closure is still in place, even though 600-pound 122 was seen on Stanley Glacier trail on Monday (Aug. 26). There is a chance he or other animals will be back on the elk, although there isn’t much left. The bear’s radio collar is broken and there is no plan to replace it in the near future.
The massive male grizzly made national headlines last week when he ate a black bear near Sundance Canyon. He travelled more than 50 kilometres to find the elk carcass, which isn’t unsual, Burley said.
“Male grizzly bears have large home ranges,” she said. “They are opportunistic feeders and their main focus at this time is eating. He’s being a typical grizzly bear. What’s unusual is to have two happen so close together in high visibility use areas.”
Burley said grizzly bears probably eat more meat than Parks biologists know, although now that berry season is here, they have lots to eat.
Another trail closure was put in place on the Helen Lake trail after a female grizzly with two cubs bluff charged several groups of hikers.
“She needs some space,” Burley said.
Parks reminds visitors to be aware in bear country, carry bear spray, make noise on the trails and travel in groups.