The rut season continues and this bull elk is busy as ever with its herm. Last week, during the evening I came across his herm, taking it easy and the bull was resting. But the rest was over, he got up and started bugling. He put on a nice show, but it started to get dark and it was time for me to leave.
I was heading back to the town of Banff after another fun day, I decided I needed to look for mountain goats first. As I was getting ready to make a right turn on the highway, I looked across, saw vehicles stopped and folks looking through the fence. Just by the reaction, it looked as if they were looking at something large and it was heading east. I kept that in mind as I went to look for goats. No goats, I headed for the town, did some birding and with just over an hour left before sunset. I decided to go and take sunset pictures, but first I wanted to see what folks were looking at along the highway, it might have been a bear and see if it came onto the side road.
Luck was on my side, it was a large grizzly and he decided to take the side road. It was taking its time, walking on and along the road. I backed up and called Banff Dispatch, if the bear kept going east, in about a km it would come across about 20 or more photographers near the road getting ready to watch and take pictures of the sunset. Knowing the road well, I watched the bear from a few hundred meters away. He was not in a hurry, taking his time. There was one small vehicle behind him, with three ladies from the states inside. They were going in the same direction and were afraid to drive by the bear. They kept the windows closed and were excited and afraid, even more when we later had a chat about the grizzly M126.
The bear after defecating on the middle of the road, went into the woods and it seemed he was not coming back out. I updated dispatch with what I saw and told them I was taking sunset pictures soon and would update them if anything changed. Now I had to make a decision, about half a km away was a large grizzly bear, I was parked 10 meters away from where I wanted to take a picture. There was still about 30 minutes before the sunset, but with the clouds moving in, the time was now. My car facing the direction where the bear would be coming from, set my camera in the car to go out, take a picture and back in my car. About 100 meters away were the rest of the people, with no idea about the grizzly. Just as I opened the car door, the grizzly came around the turn, walking the middle of the road. That evening there were going to be no sunset pictures for me, I took the attached picture and then backed my car toward the other photographers to let them know. Saw flashing light, help had arrived. Two wildlife colleagues who were having a busy evening, rolled down their windows, both smiling. As we all looked at the large grizzly walking middle of the road toward us, one said, “Amar, so where is this bear you call about”. I smiled, looked at M126, 12 to 15 years of age and easily over 400 lbs. “it’s that small cub walking toward us.”
More then few times I have seen this cub sit down and stare off into the distance. I wonder what’s going on in its head.
It has been a great year for berries. Here, a least chipmunk reaching out for a chokeberry.
How time flys, it was start of the summer I saw several white-tailed deer crossing the road early one morning. They were grazing as they slowly went through the meadow.
During one of the higher altitude meadow exploring we came across this bighorn sheep ram. It posed just in the right place, with Mount Assiniboine in the background. Providing more than enough time for me to get the pictures.
While driving through the mountains, I decided to stop at a pull-off for a few minutes of rest. I looked straight ahead and saw something coming out of tall grass, it was a red fox. It got onto the concrete barrier and straight walking away from me. I quickly grabbed my camera and tried to get a few pictures. I did not have much luck. But to my surprise it turned around and started walking toward me on the same barrier. This time I had better luck.
The evening I saw this female grizzly and her two one year old cubs, it was a peaceful as it could have been. The whole family was eating in a small open field and the cubs got to nurse a couple of times. Just the day before it was the opposite. During the first year with her first cubs, this female covered a much smaller area, playing it safe. But this year she’s covering more of the area as she did on her own and with her sister and her then famous mother F72.
The day before she was near a campground, strong food smell attracted her to a tent. A camper was inside the tent, she was trying to figure out what to do as she stood on her hind legs with her front paws putting weight on the top of the tent. Luckily for the unaware camper inside the tent, who did not know what was going outside until sounds from other camper’s vehicles and their yelling moved the grizzly and her two cubs away. The camper, unzipped the tent looked back while standing on his knees. Once seeing what was touching his tent, he put his hand over his heart and was grateful it was only a scare and learned a very important lesson from the bear and Parks Canada. A tent is not a good place to secure your food from wildlife.
Everyone was happy the grizzly and her cubs did not get any human food reward, including the members of the wildlife team that have been looking after the nine year old grizzly when she was a cub herself. Colleagues kept a close watch on her for the next few days.
The grizzly and her two cubs are having quite the adventures this season. Including one adventure that seem to be pulled right out of the famous Parks Canada’s kid book “A Beary, Berry Good Day”. Always up to something, the large male grizzly M136 near a different campground was trying to go after the two cubs. In the end he was not successful, but was able to scare one of the cub away from its family. The cub was heard crying by a campers at night, but all ended well as the family was back together again the following day. This picture of a peaceful moment was taken last months, since then they had many more
It seems the black bears are tired this summer being 2nd best. They are out there in force, being spotted regularly in the front country for several weeks now. Colleagues dealing with wildlife calls dealing with young, old and mothers with cubs. Black bears are doing far better and have greater numbers and can be found in far more places across North America. More of the visitors who visit the mountains have seen a black bear already, far fewer have ever come across a brown bear in their life. Brown bears have far smaller range from their historic land they called home. The brown bear here in Banff as many other places is studied, to help them be more successful on the landscape. And when grizzlies are successful on the landscapes, it also means a vast amount of flora and fauna are doing very well on the same land. I always have to remind myself, the black bear does not care that the grizzlies are getting more attention, they only care that they have a place where they can be wild. Here’s a beautiful black bear that was easily moving through an area that needed two prescribed burns to help create habitat that both bears can call home.
This mountain goat was spotted on the slope of the mountain. I laid back on the ground with my head on the backpack, and watched this male eat and rest.
A grizzly bear gets up on he back legs to see what was going on in the distance.
We’re in the midst of the hiking season, hiking up for grand views, meadows full of wildflowers and the wildlife that can be found at higher elevation. One of them is the hoary marmot. The largest member of the squirrel family, hibernates most of the year, from seven to eight months of the years. They spent lots of time eating, as they need to live off their fat during winter and also a lot of time spent sitting on rocks and taking in the heat. I got an early start to reach the area where I might be able to see marmots before the light got too harsh. After an hour of strong hiking I reached the place. Sat down and waited for the marmots to start coming out, it did not take long. All together, I saw at least 12 different marmots, heard and saw 3 pikas, one male mountain goat and several species of birds. A very good morning.
I was tracking birds to take pictures of in the forest, when I heard sounds from below. It was this beautiful short-tailed weasel searching for food.
I can still see the frighten look on the adult female grizzly face I saw one early morning in June. I have known F160 since 2012 when she was a year old, life was a lot simpler then, with her mother in her 20s having lots of life experience and doing a great job looking after her three cubs. In June the eight years, was in a bad place, bad side of the fence, and middle of the Trans-Canada Highway. F160 was looking for a way out, kept changing direction, running back and forth. I was worried for her and even more so when I could only see one of the two cubs she was with just a few days before. I called Banff’s Dispatch, they were already made aware and help was on its way. As I was talking I saw the help, replied back, I hope the other cub is safe and I left the area. Later that day I learned the family was back on the good side of the fence. About ten days later the other cubs was spotted with vehicle related injuries, with a broken back right leg. She was euthanized the next day.
Banff National Park has come a long way, keeping wildlife away from the busy road, with fences, wildlife crossing and colleague working to keep the wildlife safe. Bears are pretty amazing animal, very curious, which is great when searching for food. No one knows if it was the search for food or running from a large male grizzly that got them going over the “cattle guard” and then onto the highway. The hard part always is getting wildlife back to the good side of the fence on their own, physical options are being incorporated. But even today, the best hope comes in the form of human, opening the gates along the road and forcing the wildlife in their direction. The cub is survived by its mother and its sibling, hoping to see them for many more years.
I came across this black bear sitting down and enjoying buffalo berries.
Just under two hours were left before sunset, I decided to go for a drive. Middle of a straight way, several vehicles were parked on both sides of the road. Folks were out of the vehicles and looking up the slope of the mountain. I stopped and asked what they were looking at, black bear they said and pointed. I looked in the direction and then quickly pulled out my binoculars, it was not a black bear but a large grizzly. I told the crowd who were looking or trying to locate the bear and taking pictures with all type of cameras, even when it was about 400 meters away. As soon as they heard me, they asked if it was the “boss”, I said yes it was M122. Making his way up the slope of the mountain, I started wondering why. They do not use up all that energy for no reason. It was not an area where it was going to go over a pass, nothing to dig up and too early to go up and looks for moths under the rocks. Perhaps there was a kill up there, the wolf pack have gone up there and cougars hunted in the area. We would never know if he found anything, but he sure made lot of visitors to Banff happy that evening, as they observed with their eyes, binoculars, cameras and with a scope one gentleman pulled out for others to use.
Relatively speaking, it started out easier for the elk this winter. Not as cold and less snow on the ground. They still had to eat the same less nutritious food, no greens in the winter. But less snow to move aside to get at the food and less energy needed to get through the milder days and nights. But all that changed, snow storms started to come through and February brought with it much colder temperatures. Just like these three bulls, they have to spend more energy moving lots more snow to get at the less nutritious food and as well, losing lots more energy to survive the colder days and nights. Until spring arrives, they will be getting weaker, while their predators get stronger.
On a sunny morning I watched this and two other coyotes pass by, one stopping to hunt. He tried few times but had no luck, then decided to catch up with the other two.
Had an early morning adventure, small hike after taking sunrise pictures. I was back in the Bow Valley, when I saw a large male grizzly on the edge of the forest. It was the famous Banff grizzly M122, who I have seen more toward the end of the season this year. Dispatch had been informed of M122 being in the area, soon after colleagues dealing with human-wildlife conflict arrived. Weekend mid-morning during the fall season tend to be quiet, but there were workers in the area and everyone wanted to make sure the grizzly passed them safely. The bear was given lots of space, he decided the pace he wanted to move at. And boy did he take his time, stopping to dig, moving in and out of the forest, crossing the road several times, he was not in a hurry. As if he was enjoying the VIP or should I say VIB treatment.
Few big male grizzlies are still walking around in the mountains. Relatively speaking the warmer temperatures has to be playing a role and if food is out there, the big grizzlies are going to find it and can easily fight other predators for it.