Canada is an extraordinary place with incredible landscapes and animals. One animal it’s particularly famous for is the grizzly bears. We hoped to see one (or it’s small cousin the black bear) in the wild, although not too close as they can be very dangerous, if you surprise one on a walk. However, as a back up, at the start of our trip, we went to see if we would be lucky and get to see Boo the Bear in his 20-acre enclosure at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, but before I tell you about that, and show you some images of Boo, let me tell you about when we came very close to seeing wild bears on one of our last walks.
We were happily walking through fantastic pine forests early one morning. The forest was stunning, with ancient pines towering above us.
However, there was very little growth under the pines and I had just commented to Carol that we had no chance of seeing bears as there was nothing for them to eat. About 3 minutes after this, we left the pines and walked straight into a huge patch of berry bushes. Now, we had been warned multiple times by people and numerous signs that this was berry season, so had to be careful. The bears were on a mission to eat as much as they possibly can to gain enough weight for their winter hibernation. In fact, we’d been stopped from going on a couple of walks, because of bears, as you were only allowed (by law) to do them in groups of 4 or more.
However, on this walk, we had our bear spray (a kind of pepper spray) in case we got very close, and we’d watched a few videos and read a few websites with full (quite extraordinary) instructions on what to do if you came across a bear:
- During your walk make lots of noise to try and make the bears avoid you – easily done through chatter or listening to music on a phone. But, the question is do you really want to do it? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see one in the wild? Do you really want to scare them all off?
- If you do see a bear too close (less than 200 meters away) keep calm, keep your eyes down and don’t threaten it at all, back quietly away, without turning away and DON’T run. Also, don’t stand around taking loads of photos. Sounding a little less easy, especially the not taking photos bit!
- If this doesn’t work and the bear comes even closer. Still remain calm (I’d imagine this would be very hard at this stage), talk softly to the bear, still keeping your eye’s down and continue to back slowly away. Put the camera away and calmly get your bear spray ready. There was no mention of bladder control 🙂
- If the bear gets within 6 feet, use the bear spray in short bursts using a circular motion, whilst making sure that the wind is in the right direction, to stop it blowing back at you rather than at the bear. This is the second most ridiculous instruction. How are you supposed to be able to remain calm enough to even think of the wind direction, let along manoeuvre things around if it’s in the wrong direction!?
- If this still doesn’t work and the bear touches you. Don’t panic, don’t run, simply fall to the floor and play dead!!!! Just imagine that for a second and ask yourself if you’d be able to do that?!
- If the bear starts to actually harm you, that’s when you start fighting with everything you have. Probably the easiest instruction of all, but I’m guessing that if things get this far, you’re in big trouble.
So, with these instructions in our heads, the atmosphere between us changed very quickly when we saw a pile of, what looked like VERY fresh, bear dung right on our path.
It got pretty serious when we saw 2 more piles in quick succession. It looked like there must have been at least 3 bears on exactly the same walk as us. I have to admit, this was a little scary as the walk was pretty overgrown with limited visibility. So much so that we ended up playing music on my mobile phone to make sure the bears knew we were coming.
Whether they had moved on hours ago or they just didn’t like One Republic, I’ve no idea, but we didn’t see them. They may have seen, or heard us, of course, but we didn’t see hide nor hair of them.
As a wildlife and landscape artist, this was a mixed blessing really. I really wanted to see one in the wild, but I also didn’t want to get eaten by one either 🙂 A fantastic and inspiring walk, filled with very mixed feelings!
Looking back, it was a real shame we didn’t see one, but as mentioned at the start of this long email, we did get to see Boo the Bear at Kicking Horse Resort. It’s officially a ski resort, but is also a walkers paradise during the summer and autumn. They also keep an orphaned grizzly bear in a 20-acre enclosure. Normally, I’m reluctant to pay to see animals in captivity, but this was as close to a wild bear that you could get in captivity. 20-acres is (I think) the largest enclosure in the world for a single bear, although still significantly smaller than their range in the wild.
Boo was found, with his brother, after his mother was tragically shot by a poacher in 2002. The enclosure was built specifically for the 2 cubs, who were extremely young and would never have survived in the wild. Unfortunately, even with their best efforts, Boo’s brother (Carl) didn’t survive his first hibernation, something that is very common.
With such a large enclosure, there is no guarantee of seeing Boo on your visit, but we were lucky and had a very good sighting, as you can see from the images below. There will, undoubtedly, be a couple of artworks (at least) coming featuring Boo the bear.
What a magnificent creature.
If you made it to the end, huge congratulations and thanks. You’re the best and I hope all is well,