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Orphaned grizzly cubs surviving on own

Two orphaned yearling grizzly bear cubs seem to be faring well – for now.
A grizzly cub, possibly one of two orphaned after their mother was struck and killed on the CP Railway line, grazes near Lake Louise Friday (June 3).
A grizzly cub, possibly one of two orphaned after their mother was struck and killed on the CP Railway line, grazes near Lake Louise Friday (June 3).

Two orphaned yearling grizzly bear cubs seem to be faring well – for now.

That’s according to Parks Canada, which has wildlife specialists monitoring the two young bruins while trying to keep them away from deadly roads and the railway near Lake Louise.

Officials say the two cubs, which were born last year, have been doing a good job of foraging and finding food on their own and, in addition to grasses, have been feasting on dandelions.

“They’re still together and still doing quite well as far as we can tell,” said Hal Morrison, a human-wildlife conflict specialist with the Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay field unit.

“They are foraging and finding food, eating greens and digging up roots. They are still within three to five kilometres of Lake Louise.”

The cubs’ mother was killed on the Canadian Pacific Railway line near Lake Louise on May 28, and park staff spotted the two cubs near the scene the following day.

It is believed she was the same bear that spent much of her time last summer on the Lake Louise ski hill.

While losing their mother is not an automatic death sentence, the cubs’ chances of survival are not considered good as they have to battle in a busy and developed area and keep away from dangerous male bears.

Research with the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project revealed cubs in this region, on average, typically stay with their mothers for about four years.

Non-invasive monitoring of the cubs by resource conservation personnel has continued each day since the grizzly sow was killed as an interim measure to help keep the cubs away from the railway and roads.

Staff have also had a better chance to assess the behaviour of the two cubs.

One of the cubs is considerably more timid than the other, showing an aversion to roads and cars. The other cub, however, has been much less shy and has been seen foraging adjacent to roads.

To help keep the bears safe, wildlife conservation specialists have been yelling at the bears or rushing towards them to scare them towards the forest each time they get within 30 metres of a road.

Morrison said the bolder of the two bears is not afraid to come right down to Highway 1A.

“When it comes too close to the road, we yell and scream at it, and make little rush advances because we want it to believe we are the bigger, badder bear,” he said.

“We want it to treat the road with caution and keep a distance from the road. The other one doesn’t like coming to the road, and when we yell, we can hear it vocalize and then the sibling goes back.”

Morrison urges people to stay away from the cubs if they see them. “We don’t want them getting used to people,” he said.

There are an estimated 60 grizzly bears in Banff National Park.

The sow’s death was the second grizzly bear mortality in Lake Louise this year. A 415-pound male grizzly was run over and killed on the Trans-Canada Highway in the middle of the night of May 9-10.


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