Did you know?
A Den that is “Just Right”
Goldilocks isn’t the only one who likes a bed that is “just right”. What is the ideal winter abode for a bear? Black bears prefer forest habitats and search for treed locations in valley bottoms. A suitable site may be under a tree stump, log or rock, or in a hole dug in a hillside. Female black bears are fussier than the males, and will line their dens with grass, twigs and leaves. Grizzly bears tend to look for den sites higher up in the subalpine zone. They typically dig a tunnel that opens up into a slightly larger chamber. Grizzly bear dens are often located in places where the entrance is sheltered from strong winds and where deep snow will accumulate, providing extra insulation from the cold.
Bear den © M.Gibeau
The Nose Knows
A bear’s sense of smell is about 2100 times better than ours. It’s said that a bear can detect an animal carcass 30 kilometres away. Grizzlies use their keen noses to find food under the ground, like rodents, insects, roots, and bulbs. Human food or garbage that is improperly stored may not make us wrinkle up our noses, but to a hungry bear, sniffing it out is no problem.
Black bear lured by the smell of human garbage
August 17, 2012 - Bears have exceptional memories and a remarkable ability to learn about their environment and adapt to it. To survive, they must remember where certain foods are located at different times of the year. In summer, important bear foods include horsetail, cow parsnip and berries. Bears will also overturn rocks or tear apart rotting logs and trees to lick up insects.
Horsetail © Parks Canada/J. Millen
August 10, 2012 - In late summer and fall, bears rely heavily on berries to give them the much-needed fat they need in preparation for winter denning. Bears’ appetites kick into overdrive as they enter a state called “hyperphagia”. During this time, they may eat around-the-clock in an effort to pack on the pounds.
Grizzly bear scat full of buffaloberry seeds, Banff National Park, July 23, 2012
© Parks Canada/H. Reisenleiter
A Hard Living
August 3, 2012 - The mountain national parks are not easy places for a bear to make a living. Thanks to lots of rock and ice and a short growing season, a significant portion of the landscape is only moderately productive in terms of good quality bear habitat. To survive in this harsh landscape, bears spend most of their time foraging and travelling long distances to seek out seasonal vegetation, rodents and the occasional weakened ungulate or carcass. In the valley bottoms where habitat is more favourable, bears must compete with humans who also choose these prime areas to live, play and travel in.
Sharing the same trail: bear tracks on top of human tracks, Kootenay National Park, July 19, 2012
© Parks Canada/A. Sherriff
July 20, 2012 - As more grizzly bears disperse to higher elevations as green-up progresses, black bears tend to move to lower elevations to avoid grizzlies and feed on berries. For black bears, motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of human-caused mortality here. In Banff National Park, black bears have become adept at using both wildlife overpasses and underpasses to cross the busy Trans-Canada Highway.
Black bear captured on remote camera using an animal underpass
to cross the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park, July 2, 2012
Love is in the Air
July 13, 2012 - Male grizzly bears will travel long distances to mate with available females. Bred females experience delayed implantation: the embryo does not implant in the uterus until November or December, but only if the bear has enough fat reserves to sustain her and the developing fetuses through hibernation. This highlights how important habitat quality and diet is to reproductive success.
Grizzly bear #72 and her two, two-year-old offspring.
Banff National Park, June 23, 2012 © Parks Canda / A. Taylor
Rub Tree Rumba
July 6, 2012 - Dancing with the Stars contestants have nothing on these bears! Both grizzly and black bears show some fancy moves when they come across their favourite rub tree – a tree that bears regularly rub and scratch against. Bears use rub trees to communicate their presence, and perhaps social status, to other bears. Click here to watch them in action.
Grizzly bear #72 and offspring using a rub tree in Banff National Park © Parks Canada/A.Taylor
Canadian bears, eh?
June 29, 2012 - July 1 is Canada Day! Here’s a Canada Day bear quiz: what two bear species live in the Canadian Rocky Mountains?
Photos © Parks Canada / Alex Taylor
Answer: the black bear (left) and the grizzly bear (right). The black bear is commonly seen in forested areas, along roadsides and in campgrounds. It varies in colour from black to cinnamon and has a straight, tan muzzle. The grizzly bear has a concave face and a large muscular shoulder hump. Its long, thick fur also varies in colour, but is usually light brown with some blond or white hairs giving it a grizzled or silver-tip effect.
June 22, 2012 - Roadsides create openings that support plants that flourish in sunny locations. Some of these plants are important seasonal bear foods, like spring dandelions and late summer buffaloberries. Bears need to be able to feed undisturbed on this vital food source in order to gain enough fat to survive the winter. Unfortunately, roadsides are not the safest places for bears!
Bear scat, Minnewanka Road, Banff National Park © Parks Canada
June 15, 2012 - If you are travelling in Banff National Park, keep an eye out for the Bear Guardians. This educational road crew helps reduce bear jams and enables park visitors to learn more about bears and bear safety.
Bear Guardians, Banff National Park © Parks Canada/T. Donald
June 8, 2012 - Roadsides create openings that support plants that flourish in sunny locations. Some of these plants are important seasonal bear foods, like spring dandelions and late summer buffaloberries. Bears need to be able to feed undisturbed on this vital food source in order to gain enough fat to survive the winter. Unfortunately, roadsides are not the safest places for bears!
Black bear eating dandelions, Banff National Park © Parks Canada
May 31, 2012 - Mid-May to late June is elk calving season in the parks. Elk will often head for the safety of human-populated areas to have their young, where they are less likely to encounter predators. Be aware that bears may linger close to communities in search of newborn elk calves.
And, never come between a cow and her calf – mom may strike out with her sharp hooves if her calf is threatened. For safety, stay at least 30 metres (3 bus lengths) away.
Newborn elk calf, Banff National Park
© Parks Canada/D. Volkers
Learning the ropes
May 24, 2012 - Here in the Canadian Rocky Mountain national parks, grizzly bear offspring stay with their mothers for up to five years. They need this time to learn how to survive in this harsh mountain environment. Our grizzly bears have the lowest reproductive rate known for grizzlies anywhere in North America. To survive and successfully raise offspring, adult female bears need safe, predictable, quality habitat within their home ranges, with few human surprises.
Grizzly bear offspring, Banff National Park
© Parks Canada/A. Taylor
A Bare Campsite
May 18, 2012 - Bears have a keen sense of smell and are often attracted to food and liquids disposed of in fire pits—even partially burned items can be a strong attractant. Maintain a bare campsite and properly dispose of garbage and liquids in a bear-proof location.
A “bare” campsite free of bear attractants
© Parks Canada
May 11, 2012 - Bears need to eat as much as 35,000 calories a day (the number of calories in 63 hamburgers, or in 200,000 buffaloberries) in preparation for winter hibernation. This mountain habitat, with its cool temperatures and short growing seasons, does not provide bears with abundant, concentrated sources of calories. They have to spend most of their time eating or looking for food.
Grizzly bear searching for food, Banff National Park, May 3, 2012
© Parks Canada/A. Sherriff
How the Bear Crossed the Road
May 4, 2012 - In Banff National Park, there are currently 41 wildlife crossing structures (6 overpasses and 35 underpasses) that help wildlife safely cross the busy Trans-Canada Highway. Since monitoring began in 1996, 11 species of large mammals—including bears, elk and cougar—have used crossing structures more than 200,000 times.
Wildlife overpass in Banff National Park © Parks Canada/H. Reisenleiter
It's All About Food
April 27, 2012 - During hibernation, bears can lose 15-30% of their body weight. Bears have about seven months to meet their nutritional requirements for the entire year. Plants provide up to 85% of their dietary needs. Bears must move up and down in elevation and across the landscape to take advantage of widely-scattered natural food sources.