Update: May 16, 2021 – Alberta Parks reported on Social Media that 152 was hit by a car a few days ago on May 13. She was injured, but appeared to be moving around, eating and doing ‘okay’ the next day. I believe her two cubs are still with her. This is an important reminder to go slow, obey the speed limits and be extra vigilant on the roads. And please be ‘Bear Smart’ when out in bear country: Bear Safety Tips from Alberta Parks.
I am indescribably grateful to have gotten several comments on this post over the years from people who have seen this remarkable bear. Grizzly bear 152 is an inspiring example of the resilience and adaptability of bears and has touched so many lives. I have seen her many times since I wrote this blog, most recently in June 2020 with her two yearling cubs. If you would like to post any healing messages, prayers and/or stories of how she or other bears have impacted you, please feel free to do so in the comments below.
My message: 152 – you are so much more than a number. You have taught me so much about love, life and Mother Nature. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH! Please be safe and continue to bless our world with your offspring.
Why are the ‘first of the year grizzlies’ so special for me? The high I get from all wildlife sightings in general is a big part of it of course, but the first bears remind me of what lies ahead. Spring is my favorite time of year – like the grizzly bears coming out of hibernation, the world is re-awakening, quivering with new life.
In honour of spring, I wanted to tell the story of this year’s first grizzly sighting.
On May 5, I set off on an early evening drive to my usual route through Kananaskis. Last year around this time I had one of the best drives of my life – after-work in early evening hours – I was hoping for a repeat! I thought in and around the summit of Smith Dorrian trail would yield the best chance of a grizzly sighting. Considering it is still early spring, I figured they would more likely be higher up – plus, this is where my ‘first of the year grizzly’ sighting occurred last year.
I saw basically nothing on Smith Dorrian – not even a moose! Considering I rarely see bears on the main highway (highway 40 north), I figured I was out of luck by the time I finished my Smith Dorrian run. No problem – it was a nice drive and I appreciate the lengthening days of spring which allow me more light for driving.
Despite the lack of wildlife, I was feeling peaceful and relaxed as I meandered towards home. Memories of last year’s first grizzly and awe at how beautiful the mountains are were competing for space in my mind. I was startled out of my reverie by the sight of a bear bum on the opposite side of the highway.
‘Bear on highway 40!?,’ I thought to myself, ‘it can’t be!’ The front end of the bear rose enough for me to see the tell-tale hump of a grizzly bear. I pulled over to the side of the highway and watched…
The bear lifted her head occasionally, allowing me to see the radio collar and the #152 ear tag – then quickly lowered back down for more grazing. For the first frustrating minutes, all I could capture were several pictures of her bum. Don’t get me wrong – she has a beautiful bear bum, but I was so anxious to see her face!
One of the advantages of an evening drive on a weekday is the lack of traffic. Only a few other cars drove by, some stopped for pictures as well, and others just drove on (how the heck can a person drive by a grizzly bear!?). I basically had her all to myself for 10 to 15 minutes.
The presence of the radio collar made me worry that at any moment, a conservation officer would come, scare her off the highway, and give me sh*t for taking pictures. But luckily, that did not happen.
I watched her graze on the opposite side of the highway for a few minutes, and she eventually wandered on to higher ground, giving me a view of her full body. Then she walked across the highway to the opposite side, behind my car. I slipped into the passenger side of my car and positioned myself for more photographs. She drank from a little stream in the ditch and then took a nice healthy poo (seeing a bear poo – that was a first for me ;).
She was so beautiful and amazing to watch, I have to admit, I had a really hard time leaving her. I even considered pulling the car around to the other side of the highway to get a better angle and continue to watch. But when I turned on the car, she started a bit, and I knew it was time to move on. I did not want to cause her any stress.
I pulled away and watched in the rearview mirror – I saw her beautiful bear bum lumber down the side of the highway in the opposite direction, eventually fading from my sight.
What an amazing first grizzly of the year experience! I was left, however, with a bit of a worry. Watching a grizzly so close to the highway – grazing in the ditch, crossing the highway and walking along the shoulder – made me realize how susceptible they are to collisions. The only thing we as drivers can do is SLOW DOWN and be conscious of wildlife on the roads. Here is a post from the Fur Bearer Defenders with some simple tips to help protect wildlife on the road.
A few notes: I’ve been saying ‘she’ but I don’t actually know if this is a female bear. If anyone happens to know the sex and age of grizzly bear 152, please let me know – I’m just curious. Also, you may notice the missing ear tag and collar in some of these images – don’t worry, this was done digitally with Photoshop 😉 I just wanted a few images without all the jewellery.
Until next time, continue loving life and all things wild 🙂