The grizzly bear family that startled picnickers at a popular day-use area 11 days ago have been relocated away from the Jasper townsite.
On July 24, a sow grizzly and her two cubs got way too close for comfort to a family of visitors who had just laid out their lunch at Lake Annette. The bears accessed food at a picnic table and another picnic blanket, and their bold behaviour was troubling enough to Jasper wildlife officials that they closed the area to members of the public while they attempted to track down the three bears.
Three days later, when officials were finally able to trap the family and collar the sow, JNP’s James McCormick said the human-wildlife coexistence specialist team had a challenging decision to make.
“We could leave them in place, we could move them to the backcountry, or we could move them away from the townsite to a place where we could manage them,” McCormick said.
They elected for the latter solution and on July 28, after the mom had recovered from the immobilization drugs she received in Parks Canada’s bear-family-specific wildlife trap, staff moved the group about 70 kilometres south of Jasper. The location was far away from the touristy bustle of the townsite, but near enough to park assets that officials could keep an eye on them—and on the gawkers who would invariably stop their vehicles for a closer look.
“Staff have been managing the bears and keeping people back,” McCormick reported. “These bears are still very comfortable around roadways and people.”
Fitted with a satellite GPS collar which uploads daily data sets and also pings out signals which can be picked up by telemetry equipment, the sow has been tracked as she and her cubs move further south. They spent some time at the Columbia Icefields Area and, eventually, ambled towards the Parker Ridge summer hiking trail—not exactly people-free zones. But McCormick was encouraged that the mother grizzly was spotted successfully fishing near Beauty Creek and that she seems to be foraging on blooming berry crops.
“We’re hoping she goes uphill, to the subalpine or alpine,” McCormick said.
They’re also hoping curious visitors will keep their distance and never attempt to feed them. In general, if bears are in the area, all food should be packed up and put away in a hard-sided vehicle, structure or bear-safe, designated food storage locker. Thirty metres should be the minimum distance between humans and bears.
“Give them their space,” McCormick said. “Even in vehicles.”
Bob Covey // firstname.lastname@example.org
By trapping and relocating them, Jasper National Park officials are trying to give wildlife the best chance to stay alive. But what’s involved in the relocation process? The Jasper Local is here to sniff out the potent details.
- Locate the bears. In this case, a wide area was cordoned off from the public and wildlife officials spent three days combing their regular haunts: Lake Annette/Lake Edith day-use areas, Old Fort Point and the grounds of the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.
- Get the trap. To capture the mother grizzly and her two cubs, Jasper National Park borrowed a specialized bear family trap from their counterparts in Banff. Like your modern minivan, the heavy sliding door of the trap has a “cub stopper” mechanism which stops the door from closing on a too-tiny bruin. It also has a separate compartment for the wee ones, so that when mom wakes up from her drug-induced daze, she doesn’t accidentally hurt her cubs.
- Bait that thing. Sometimes officials thaw one of the frozen beaver carcasses they store for such purposes, other times they’ve got fresh roadkill on the menu. In this instance, a recently-killed elk was the choice cut for the picnic bears. Officials chucked some medallions in the trap then made a “light drag,” creating a trail of irresistible ungulate scent—an amuse bouche, if you will—towards the main course. Dinner was served and for dessert: a ketomine chaser à la immobilization dart. The following day, 70 kilometres away, it was berries and fresh fish for breakfast—although the bears are expected to rustle up that grub themselves.