Ever since two young black bears were released into Banff National Park in 2018, Parks Canada staff watched closely for updates on their status — but given the remoteness of the area, news was sparse.
That’s why new pictures, captured on trail cameras on Aug. 2, had staff feeling ecstatic.
“We didn’t know whether they were alive or not,” said Blair Fyten, wildlife coexistence specialist for Banff National Park. “It was great to capture this image and know that one of the three bears that we had rehabbed and released is still on the landscape.”
The three black bear cubs were found by a motorist in a facility at the Vermilion Lakes turnout, located west of the Banff townsite, in 2017.
Officials conducted an exhaustive search for their mother, which was ultimately unsuccessful, before the cubs were sent to the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Muskoka, Ont.
All three were released home to Banff in 2018 with GPS collars. Fyten said one of those three bears was confirmed to have been killed, potentially by another bear.
“That left those two remaining bears,” he said. “But they slipped their [GPS] collars after the first winter.”
The reason for that, Fyten said, is likely due to the fact that the bears weighed more after returning to the wild from the rehab centre.
“It takes them a long time to find foods they can eat. It gives them a better chance of survival that winter,” Fyten said. “They probably lost weight and shrunk and when they came out of the den the collars just slipped over their heads.
“[But] those collars were designed to drop off the following summer anyways.”
While the new image confirmed that one of the bears is still roaming around the park, the status of the second bear remains unknown.
“The other bear potentially could still be on the landscape. We’ll continue to check images on our trail cameras in that area and see if we get any sightings,” Fyten said.
Guests of Banff National Park are asked to report any bear sightings to the park’s dispatch and ensure that all garbage is picked up while utilizing park sites.