A nine-year-old female grizzly bear was struck by a car and killed in the early hours of May 29, orphaning two of her yearlings.
The bear, referred to by Parks Canada as No. 156, was killed on the Trans-Canada Highway just east of Field, B.C., in Yoho National Park.
Parks Canada said the driver reported the collision and there was only minor damage to the vehicle.
“At this time of year, there’s a lot of snow up high, so in the spring, they come down to the valley bottoms looking for vegetation,” said Jon Stuart-Smith, a wildlife ecologist with Parks Canada. “Along highway and ditches, dandelions start coming up.
“The cubs were found near their mother’s remains, not far from the highway. They had been crossing the road to be close to her, and we were worried for their safety.”
Parks Canada made the decision to capture the bears and relocate them within their home range.
“We need to find a place they are already familiar with, a place where there is not a lot of snow,” Stuart-Smith said. “We had to have a spot that had natural food sources for them this time of year.
“We left them with a little bit of a moose carcass to help them get a bit of a leg up before they figure life out on their own.”
The brother and sister bears are one-and-a-half years old and Parks Canada said they weigh about 50 pounds each. However, the agency is confident they have a good chance at survival.
“They can survive after their mother is killed,” Stuart-Smith said. “This isn’t something that isn’t unheard of.
“They do survive in certain situations. That’s one of the reasons we made the decisions to keep them on the landscape and be part of our grizzly bear population in our national parks.”
Grizzly bears in Banff and Yoho national parks are listed as species of special interest due to the enormous struggles they face, including the challenging terrain, lack of accessible food sources like salmon and, of course, humans.
There are an estimated 60 to 80 grizzlies in Banff National Park and only about 10 to 20 in Yoho National Park. There has been a long list of mitigation efforts to prevent road mortalities, including fencing, wildlife corridors and no-stopping zones, but bears continue to get hit by cars and trains.
“It’s extremely sad and really concerning,” said Jodi Hilty with the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. “Most of the bears in the region are dying by human causes and this is just another example of that.
“In the Y2Y region, we have 116 overpasses and underpasses that are designated specifically for wildlife — this is huge — we think the most in any landscape in the world. Are we done yet? Obviously, with the example of this bear, we are not done yet. We have more to do.”
In areas where there has been fencing, Parks Canada has seen a decrease in bear strikes.
The stretch of road where bear No. 156 was killed is not yet fenced. Parks Canada said it has to wait for the road to be twinned before it can proceed with fencing and wildlife overpasses.
Bear No. 156 had a total of four cubs. Her orphaned yearlings have ear tags and ecologists can monitor them on trail cameras but they were too young to be collared.
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