This mothers day I want to talk about a famous Rocky Mountain Mom. Bear 64 (named for her tag) is the most notorious Momma Bear in Banff National Park. She’s going on 25 years old, and has raised three litters of cubs right on the edge of the Banff town site. This is an impressive feat, as she’s had to spend the past 2.5 decades teaching her cubs to maneuver the threats that come from being so close to humans (a railroad, a major highway, and clueless tourists).
The lifespan for a grizzly bear in the wild is 20-25 years so as spring arrives in the park, the big question on everyone’s mind is: “where is Bear 64?”
Since the end of March several bear sightings have been reported, including another local celebrity “The Monster Bear” (Bear 122). In the fall, 122 was pretty successful in fattening up for winter, eating two elk and a black bear. On March 27 he was the first in the park spotted out of the den weighing an impressive 700 pounds, solidifying himself as the biggest and baddest in the area. There have been several other sightings this season as well, including 128 (Bear 122’s brother), and a lone cub on the edge of town.
Although Bear 64 might not be seen this year, it’s curious that her past litter of cubs hasn’t been spotted yet. The three of them are almost fully grown now and were spotted without Ma last October. This means Mom likely sent them packing, since as three year olds they’re technically teenagers now. They’ll probably stick together as a family unit until they’re old enough to breed (5 or 6), and this bothers me. Not because I want them to strike it out on their own, they aren’t big enough to be alone on 122’s territory yet, but because it should be tough to miss three young grizzly bears running around on the edge of town.
Where has Bear 64 gone then? Every day that passes without a sighting lowers the odds we’ll see her again, but if her cubs have managed to avoid the paparazzi so far I have hope for her. I’m willing to bet Mom is doing even better now without the triplets to slow her down. But there have been reports of bears coming back for another litter (and living to be 30) in the park, so that could be what she’s planning to surprise us with this year.
Mom or no mom, I’m sure the triplets will be enough to keep the parks staff busy this year. I’m still excited for the day we see Banff’s Queen make headlines this spring.
It might seem to be a no brainer, but everyone: the bears are out. If you’re doing anything in the backcountry in the next 6-7 months it should go without saying: be prepared and stay safe.
Notes from 2016: Bear 64 was last sighted in late 2013. No traces of her were discovered in the summer of 2014 and by the Autumn it was safe to assume she was gone. Of her last litter, two were collared. All three were assumed to have lasted the summer, and her daughter, bear #148 has stepped into her shoes and formed a connection with the Bow Valley residents. At 5.5 years old, she’s now breeding age and the locals are hoping to see her first litter in 2017.
This post is a part of a hidden collection about a charity centred business I launched in 2013/14. The home post is here.