Lucky number 152: my first grizzly bear of the year

by | May 12, 2015

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.

Grizzly152_2June 3, 2012;   June 15, 2013;  May 20, 2014;  May 5, 2015. I don’t even have to look at the image meta-data to know the exact dates of my ‘first grizzly of the year’ sightings since 2012 – they are seared into my brain. And it’s not only the dates I remember – I know who I was with, the exact location (all were in Kananaskis), what time of day it was, what type of light I had, basically every detail about what the grizzlies looked like (color, size, etc), and most importantly, the gratitude I left in being able to observe/photograph these beautiful animals. I can conjure a vivid image in my brain of all of these encounters, even without looking at the photos.

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.

Grizzly Bear, Kananaskis

Grizzly Bear, Kananaskis

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.

Grizzly Bear, Kananaskis

Grizzly Bear, Kananaskis

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!

Grizzly Bear, Kananaskis

Grizzly Bear, Kananaskis

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.

Grizzly Bear, Kananaskis

Grizzly Bear, Kananaskis

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.

Grizzly Bear, Kananaskis

Grizzly Bear, Kananaskis

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 🙂

36 Comments

  1. GordN

    We drive by because they have put the fear of god into “us” that stopping to look at wildlife creates havoc and mayhem and don’t do it!

    But I’m told I never listen.

    Reply
    • Kerri Martin

      Stopping for wildlife can cause havoc for sure, but it can be done safely and respectfully in my opinion 🙂

      Reply
  2. Tracy

    Great photos! She was back on highway 40 this afternoon (June 13) grazing on dandelions!

    I was told by Alberta Parks interpreters that only female Grizzlies are radio collared. This is because it allows them to keep track of the cubs (since they can’t collar them) and also because males have very vast territories and thus travel greater distances than females and can go beyond the range of the transmitters. ; )

    Reply
    • Kerri Martin

      That makes sense Tracy – thanks for you kind words and info 🙂

      Reply
  3. Rob Evans

    Thanks for this blog Kerri. I shot her today along the Highway right near the Centrex gas station.

    Reply
    • Kerri Martin

      Thanks Rob – I’m glad she is still around, that is about where I saw her too in May 🙂

      Reply
  4. Andrew

    You be happy to know she’s survived another year. I shot a few photos of her today, just outside Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. She was on the side of Highway 40, eating clover. No cubs visible though.

    Reply
    • Kerri Martin

      Awesome! I saw her on June 15 close to there as well – looking very healthy and happy. Thanks for letting me know 🙂

      Reply
  5. Rob Sowald

    Hey Kerri, my wife and myself saw her on July 11 2016 on highway 40 close to Kananaskis Village.

    Reply
    • Kerri Martin

      Thanks for letting me know Rob – that’s great! 🙂

      Reply
  6. Rob Sowald

    We were told by park rangers that if the bear has a tag in the right ear it is a female. It seems that women are always right. This is how we were explained and easy to remember.

    Reply
  7. Patrick Kornak

    I got some great shots on July 20 as she wandered close to Hwy 40 munching on berries. I used the Sigma 150-600 to get head and shoulder shots from about 22 meters away. Most of the other shots were from about 50 meters away. You can see them on my Instagram. I am listed as PatrickSK Shortly after I got my shots a park services officer came by and chased everyone away and then brought out a rifle. I did not see what happened next but I am assuming that he shot some rubber bullets or something to scare it back into the bush.

    Reply
    • Kerri Martin

      Thanks for letting me know Patrick – I saw your instagram you got some beautiful shots of one of my favorite bears 🙂 You are right that the rifle was rubber bullets to scare her away from the road – not a tactic I agree with but this is how the bears are managed in Kananaskis…

      Reply
  8. Patrick LaMontagne

    After going through my photos and seeing the tag, did a Google search for Bear 152 and found your blog. Saw her happily munching away on bushes north of the Smith-Dorian on Hwy 40 this morning. She looks great, just being a bear, doing her thing. Your photos are much better than mine, but then, I’m a painter, not a photographer. Great shots, BTW.

    Reply
    • Kerri Martin

      Thanks so much for the update Patrick 🙂

      Reply
  9. Chris

    Googled Grizzly 152 and your blog happened to pop up. Was driving back from Upper K-Lakes and we came across 152 in a small meadow on the side of hwy 40 heading north after the Centrex. No cubs with her. She lingered for a few minutes until other cars started pulling up and she was over it and wandered back into the woods.

    Reply
    • Kerri Martin

      Thanks so much for the update Chris! I have yet to see her this year but I really hope to 🙂

      Reply
  10. Louise Marie Lahaye

    Hello, I just come back from Canada and went to Kananaskis finding to see a bear. We were sooo lucky because we met the female grizzli 152 as well. She stayed with us at least half an hour !!! I took lot of pictures !!!!!

    Reply
    • Kerri Martin

      This great Louise – thanks so much for letting me know. Happy you got a chance to see her 🙂

      Reply
  11. LolaLucy

    If you’re still interested in knowing, Bear 152 is now 7 years old.

    Reply
    • Kerri Martin

      I am – thanks so much 🙂

      Reply
    • sharon petty

      do you have any other info on her. Just curious to know

      Reply
      • Kerri Martin

        All I know is she is 7 years old, which is around the time they are expected to have young. A friend go a photo of her snuggling with a male bear earlier in the spring, so maybe we’ll see some cubs next year? I hope so! 🙂

        Reply
  12. Sharon petty

    On holiday in Canmore from Australia. Took a drive to Kananaskis hoping to see my very first bear. Met 152. This memory will last forever. June 9th 2018. About 4.30pm. Eating dandelions on the side of the road

    Reply
    • Kerri Martin

      I’m so happy for you Sharon! She is so beautiful. I also saw her again last night for the first time in 2 years 🙂

      Reply
      • Cindy Sigalet

        Saw #152 and her 2 cubs(now 2yrs) eating along Hwy 40 near centrex on 22Jul21.
        My first every grizzly sighting. They seemed healthy and the cubs even wrestled a bit.

        Reply
        • Kerri Martin

          Awesome – thanks so much Cindy for letting me know 🙂

          Reply
  13. Dayle

    Bear 152 does indeed have two little cubs with her this year. Saw her yesterday.

    Reply
    • Kerri Martin

      Yay! I heard she has cubs this year but have not personally seen her or them yet – thanks for the update! 🙂

      Reply
    • Sharon Petty

      So glad to hear. Can’t wait to see pics so please post some. this was my first ever Grizzly and I will never forget her.

      Reply
  14. David

    Got a couple of photos last night about 8:30 of 152, on Hwy 40 near the Centrex. She had 2 young ones with her but I didnt get photos of them as I was shoo’d away by an angry Parks Officer after only getting a couple of shots of her.
    They all looked happy and healthy though 🙂

    Reply
    • Kerri Martin

      Thanks David for the update – yes, Parks is generally guarding her and the kids because she lives so close to a fairly busy section of the highway. I actually got a chance to see and photograph her and the cubs last night! It was 9pm and they were in a location where I could completely pull of the highway. I managed to get a few nice images of her and the cubs – they all do look healthy and happy 🙂

      Reply
  15. Jon Noad

    the rangers say that lady bears are always right (ear tags)
    I was in K Country today (July 2020) and Bear 152 was around with two yearling cubs, in the Fortress area. The rangers told me, I didn’t get to see her.
    I have previously seen her by the wishing well in Kananaskis, also a wonderful sighting

    Reply
    • Kerri Martin

      Thanks for the info Jon!

      Reply
      • Osh

        Hi Kerri, what a great read! I can really relate to the feeling of seeing wildlife in an unexpected manner like this. Bear 152 is the first grizzly I have ever seen in the wild. We saw her less than a month ago (September 12, 2020) close to the Chester Lake hike while we were (luckily) in our car. She had two little Cubs in tow! It was a wonderful experience and only lasted about a minute as she carefully surveyed from one side of the road for traffic and people and then crossed over to the other side – RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR CAR! At least 2 other cars stopped rLto take pictures. It’s only today that I was looking at the pictures in detail and was able to make out the number on her ear tag. I decided to Google it and came across a few different online sources where she is featured!

        Being an avid hiker from BC, this was my first time hiking in the Rockies. While I have seen lots of black bears during my hikes (some, too close for comfort!), nothing compares to seeing a grizzly like we did. Glad to know there are others who share the same excitement, even ones like you who have seen them multiple times previously! Please stay in touch if you would like to see some of the pictures we took (amature shots from our smartphones). If you are ever in Vancouver and need a local contact / volunteer guide, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

        Reply
        • Kerri Martin

          Thanks so much for letting me know – I’m happy to hear you saw her and she and her cubs are doing well. I will let you know for sure if I get you area – I hope to someday 🙂

          Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *