Brianne Burley is the wildlife ecologist for Mt. Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks. (Jocelyn Doll/Revelstoke Review)

Managing bears a part of daily operations in Mt. Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks

Their goal is to keep everyone and the bears safe

It’s the time of year when grizzly bears head to their dens and sleep away the winter, and Parks Canada knows exactly where bear 49 sleeps.

But the location is top secret.

The wildlife management team put an ear tag and GPS collar on bear 49 in the summer of 2018.

“We try not to handle and immobilize animals unless we feel it is necessary,” said Brianna Burley, wildlife ecologist for Mt. Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks.

READ MORE: Grizzly bear and off-leash dog encounters have caused some trails to be closed to dogs in Mt. Revelstoke National Park

The decision to close the summit of Mt. Revelstoke National Park, trap, immobilize and tag bear 49 was approved by the park’s animal care committee.

A part of the bear’s home range, the area where he lives and feeds, is the summit area, and after the bear had an encounter with an off leash dog, parks staff decided it would be best for everyone if they could track his movements.

Now they can look up the bears location in real time, or, the collar records coordinates every two hours.

It has proved useful.

This summer, bear 49 was chased by an off leash dog, however, he turned around and chased it back to it’s owner. The owner was able to get the dog under control and the bear took off, said Shelley Bird, communications officers for the parks.

“Because we had his GPS collar data we could look somewhat real-time to see what the disturbance was on that animal,” said Burley. “It appears that right after that incident he moved 12 km away from the point of interaction with the dog.”

READ MORE: Monitoring amphibians in Mt. Revelstoke and Glacier National Park

Although it isn’t unusual for bear 49 to move 12 km in a day, this was continuous movement, at a time when he should be conserving energy, finding food and putting on fat for hibernation.

If it had been a female with a cub, Burley speculated, that incident would have been really detrimental to their survival.

Other data collected by tracking bear 49’s whereabouts has helped with people management, Bird said.

Bear 49 in Mt Revelstoke and bear 50, a female grizzly whose home range is in Glacier National Park, are the only two bears living in the parks that have been tagged by parks staff.

But there are many, many more living, or passing through the area.

Both Mt. Revelstoke and Glacier have great bear habitat, said Burley.

A big part of Burley and her team’s job, is preventing and addressing human-wildlife conflict.

“Our number one priority is safety,” she said. Of both the humans and the wildlife.

READ MORE: Mt. Revelstoke bee inventory project blooms alongside summer wildflowers

This priority permeates even the design of the campgrounds, which include food storage lockers and bear proof garbage bins, said Bird.

From there the wildlife team has a variety of tools they can use including advisories, restrictions and closures. For example, Balu Pass was closed at the end of the summer because it is an ideal feeding ground for bears and, at times, certain areas are restricted to groups of four people or dogs are banned.

“Ideally, if bear in an area that is suitable, we would love to let the bear be and manage the people,” Burley said.

In cases where the bear is in an area it shouldn’t be, such as in the middle of a campground, the wildlife conflict management team is called in to move the bear along.

Sometimes getting a large group of people together or just yelling “hey bear,” gets them on their way. Sometimes bears run when they see the Parks Canada truck, or even just the uniform, Bird said with a laugh.

Both a weary bear and a highly habituated bear might react to this low-force hazing, Burley said. The habituated bears know what is coming next and the weary bears are just that.

READ MORE: PHOTOS: Highway 1 improvements restoring fish habitat in Glacier National Park

“You want to achieve the behaviour you are after with the least amount of force,” Burley added.

If yelling doesn’t work parks staff will try louder noises, such as whistles or air horns. They also have bangers and screamer pistols.

If the bear still hasn’t moved on, staff will move on to impact projectiles. They have chalk balls, which are low impact, and if necessary they have rubber bullets and bean bags.

“Depending on the circumstances and what’s happening, we do a risk assessment and then use our tools and training appropriately,” Burley said.

In the end, managing interactions between bears and humans is a day-to-day part of having a national park in bear country.


 

@JDoll_Revy
jocelyn.doll@revelstokereview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

‘She was awesome’: Malakwa baker leaves U.S. holiday show

‘There are Christmas miracles, look at me’

One year in, surgical pilot project at Revelstoke hospital going well

Starting in Dec. 2018 an additional day of surgeries each week was offered

Snowfall warning for Revelstoke

Up to 25 cm expected

Considerable avalanche danger near Revelstoke today

The mountains have received more than 40 cm this week

Highway 1 avalanche closure times decreasing around Revelstoke

According to the province, Highway 1 closures can cost $500,000 per hour

VIDEO: Federal Liberals’ throne speech welcomes opposition’s ideas

Trudeau will need NDP or Bloc support to pass legislation and survive confidence votes

Weak link in Sagmoen trial, defence says

Counsel questions whether search warrant police executed was obtained on reasonable grounds

VIDEO: John Lennon’s iconic Rolls Royce rolls into Vancouver Island college for checkup

Royal BC Museum, Camosun College and Coachwerks Restorations come together to care for car

North Okanagan MP says throne speech lacked specifics

‘Trudeau government presented a vague agenda,’: MP Mel Arnold

VIDEO: Rockslide closes part of Highway 93 in Fairmont Hot Springs

Geotechnical team called in to do an assessment after rocks fell from hoodoos

Petition calls for appeal of ex-Burns Lake mayor’s sentence for sex assault

Prosecution service says Luke Strimbold’s case is under review

Northwest B.C. wildlife shelter rescues particularly tiny bear cub

Shelter co-founder says the cub weighs less than a third of what it should at this time of year

Sicamous Eagles defeat Summerland Steam in overtime decision

Junior B hockey teams faced off in Summerland on Dec. 5

BC firefighters to help battle Australian bushfires

Canada sent 22 people, including 7 from B.C.

Most Read