Nothing says “spring is here” like the year’s first sighting of a bear in Banff National Park. With winter hibernation coming to an end, Banff and Lake Louise Tourism says the first grizzly of 2020 has been spotted. And apparently it’s the earliest one of the animals that has emerged from its den in the last decade.
Banff and Lake Louise Tourism announced the sighting to its social media followers on Tuesday, March 3.
“Rise and shine, sleepyheads,” it said, posting a photograph of one of Banff’s bears. “The first grizzly bear sighting in Banff National Park in 2020 was this week. Their winter hibernation is coming to a close.”
According to the Rocky Mountain Outlook, the creature was spotted by a resource conservation officer and was likely to have been one of the Bow Valley area’s two dominant bears — The Boss or Split Lip.
The publication also reported that this is thought to be the earliest a bear has been spotted out and about in at least 10 years.
Parks Canada confirmed the sighting in an email shared with Narcity on Tuesday, March 3.
It revealed that its wildlife specialists had spotted the grizzly near the Sunshine Road and TransCanada junction, west of the town of Banff last Friday, February 28.
The group also issued some guidance on Facebook to remind visitors of how important it is “for us all to work together to keep the ‘wild’ in wildlife and treat these animals with respect.”
“Bears are awake and focused on finding food,” it said, also advising people to carry bear spray. “Give them lots of space. (At least 100m / 300ft.)”
Visitors to Banff are also asked to “make noise, travel in groups, keep dogs on-leash and watch for bear signs” for their safety and yours. People should also keep their food and garbage indoors.
The organization said that large male bears usually emerge in mid-March and mostly spend time in valley bottoms, where it is easiest to travel and find food.
Smaller bears will likely come out in the coming weeks, and females with their young in late April or May.
Banff National Park will start publishing weekly bear reports from the first week of April.
Despite it being earlier in the year than usual, the Banff bear is technically not the first in Alberta to have woken from hibernation in 2020. In January, it emerged that Calgary Zoo’s grizzly, Skoki, woke up briefly during a warm spell.
In 2019, several trails in the province of Alberta had to be closed due to bear sightings.
Also last year, in Penticton, B.C., five black bears were killed after they were found roaming a neighbourhood close to an elementary school.