On our last day in Jasper, Kian and I went for a walk along Pyramid Lake that morning. It was the first weekend of September so it was cool with a bit of mist on the water and the autumn colors were just starting to come in. We headed back to town around 9am and spotted a Black bear in the open forest above the road.
One bear soon became two when the other stepped out from behind a dense clump of Buffalo berries. The berries were ripe at that time so the bears had been drawn in. At first we thought they were a mother and cub but when they were side by side, and then when they were wrestling, we could see they were both the same size.
To me, they seemed like they were near adults and given their play fighting I think they are siblings that are still hanging out together. Whether related or not, they seemed to enjoy each other’s company and stayed close to each other as they munched through the patches of berries along the hillside.
Fine dining in the woods
This summer’s weather – rain and sunshine in a daily tug-of-war – has been a perfect gardener for the wild Buffalo berries. These have ripened over the past week or two and are drawing in the bears throughout Kananaskis. This Black bear made it easy for me to find him when he sauntered across the road a couple of hundred metres in front of me. I pulled up to find him standing up in the middle of a patch feasting on the berries.
They are a great source of calories for the bears so it is wonderful to see so much fruit this year. Some years are not nearly as abundant and it seemed like that was not lost on this beautiful bear. He appeared to be relishing almost every bite. The berries stretched back into the forest and he slowly made his way further back as he ate. I lost sight of him shortly after these pictures but could see branches bend and hear the odd one crack for several more minutes before he vanished back into the wilderness as they often do.
Same bear, similar itch, different tree
The Black bear that I photographed doing a bit of a dance while rubbing against a small tree continued on its path through the trees for a while before crossing the highway. It was early in the morning so no traffic interrupted him as he sauntered down the middle of the road for a couple of hundred metres.
Crossing a thin tree line, he grazed on spring flowers amid the tall grass while heading parallel to the road.
A while after that, he wandered close to the Athabasca River and grazed near the shoreline and even laid down for a short nap on a grassy spot.
A few minutes later, he moved into the trees and finding a new scratching post to rub against for a little while.
A backscratching bear’s dance
I visited Jasper National Park for a couple of days over the Victoria Day long weekend. The park has a different feel (both are great – just different) from Banff and I always look forward to spending time there. I plan to share a few stories of time I spent with some of the magnificent wildlife there but will start with a really fun moment.
This black bear was grazing in the ground cover of a stretch of open forest when I found him. I watched him scratch, sniff and chew on shrubs, flowers and roots for several minutes and then he sauntered over to this small tree.
Rearing up on his hind legs, he seemed really happy to rub his back up and down against the spiky needles. I’m not sure how much scratching he felt with his thick coat so maybe it was more for the scent or to shake off some insects. No matter the reason, it was cool to see a bear dancing for his own reasons.
Kootenay Black Bears
We went to Radium on the weekend in search of bears. The dandelions are in bloom in the roadside fields along Highway 93 in the Kootenay National Park that runs west from the British Columbia – Alberta border. These flowers represent one of the first key crops that the bears can graze on.
The narrow valley that winds down to the Kootenay River is beautiful with dense forest, mountain streams and a couple of small lakes. The last 15 kilometers of the highway hides the yellow patches around corners and draws bears consistently at this time of the year. During our visit we came upon a few individual bears munching away. Most drivers stayed in their vehicles and were generally respectful of the bears. A few exceptions, but on this trip at least, not the worst behaviour that I’ve seen.
With the bears not threatened, it was fun to watch them snack away, able to concentrate on eating rather than worrying about people. This black bear settled right down which I took as an indication that he was relaxed.
Later on, in another field, I saw him scrunch up his nose at one point. We left and when we drove by later the bear had also moved on. I’m not sure if the wrinkled nose was a sign of discomfort with the people and cars or he simply wanted to get back into the woods.
I loved the confidence shown by this bear as it strode across the road to a new field. I worry about the traffic but the drivers on this day were patient and no one rushed the crossing. Hope to see more and more of that level of awareness.
I would have liked to have seen a momma with a couple of cubs. Maybe they found secluded dandelion patches to enjoy in private. The bear below took a minute to stare up the hill under the heavy rain. I did not hear or see anything that would have warranted an alert stare but the bear obviously did.
It was great to see these bears. I hope to get out there again before the flowers turn to seed and these animals disappear back into the woods.
Kootenay National Park Black Bears: Mother and Cub
In June, we drove to Invermere, BC for a long weekend. My drove through the Kootenay National Park on our way to Radium and the Columbia River Valley. The dandelions were in full bloom in the meadows and the ditches along Highway 93 leading into Radium so I had high hopes of seeing some bears on the way. With the bright overcast making the wet grass and flowers shine, I knew the light would be a bit of a challenge but when we found this Black bear (Ursus americanus) mother and very young cub all worries about available light, blown out grass and shiny wet fur flew far out of mind. Bobbi and both kids were there so it was special to watch them together.
Click on the images to see larger, and sharper, versions of each image on its own page.
Everyone around stayed in their cars and the bears carried on with minimal concern. After half an hour, the cub sauntered back behind the trees. Mom stayed close to the forest’s edge but grazed for a few more minutes before joining her baby.