Grizzly Refuge History
History – Good Things Come in Small Packages!
July 3rd 2003 was the start of a new and exciting program at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort! The arrival of two young orphan grizzly bear cubs marked the beginning of the Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Refuge. This was the day Cari and Boo were introduced to their 22 acre lush habitat. The brothers played, frolicked, foraged and explored within their new home. The two cubs were orphaned in June 2002, when their mother was shot by a poacher off the side of the highway, in northern BC.
Sadly, in the spring of 2004, Cari passed away within his hibernation den. The Abbotsford provincial veterinary laboratory deemed his death from natural causes, a twist in his intestine. Boo set out for a new summer season exploring and learning within his mountainside home. Boo has shown us that he is very resilient and able to overcome the loss of his mother and brother, showing an overwhelming amount of “people” traits known as courage, wisdom, and strength.
Education and Research
The Grizzly Bear Refuge is an education, conservation and research facility that offers a second chance at life for orphan grizzly bear cubs within a protected, spacious and natural mountainside habitat.
The Refuge provides research staff a unique opportunity to observe behaviour and life skill development of grizzly cubs as they grow in a natural setting. Researchers record daily observations made on activities such as foraging, playing, sleeping, survival, social skills and hibernation. This research helps us understand which skills orphan grizzly bears acquire through trial and error and which skills are instinctual. Observations are made on how they learn and when in their development they acquire each skill. To date, these observations indicate that orphan grizzly bear cubs have many innate instincts (traits that the cubs are born with) that we might call ‘common sense.’ Our observations may allow us to conclude that even without maternal guidance, orphan cubs in a protected environment given the same opportunities as wild grizzly bear cubs, are able to learn and grow at a similar pace.
The Grizzly Bear Refuge also studies the environmental impact a grizzly bear has on a large enclosed habitat. This helps us to determine how much area is required to allow the bears to be physically, socially and mentally healthy. The habitat is monitored to determine if it can sustain the grizzly cub, and allows for native vegetation to be maintained. This information will assist in the management of habitats for future orphan grizzly bears.
Hibernation studies are an important part of our research. We are discovering leading edge information previously unavailable to researchers, gathered as we allow the orphan cubs to follow their natural winter cycle and hibernate just as wild grizzly bears do. Boo can enter and emerge from his log den at will during the over-wintering period. Data is gathered on temperature and humidity inside the den as well as the ambient outside temperature. Boo is monitored with the help of an infrared night vision camera that records all activities in the den. Our hibernation research is demonstrating the correlation of weather and light on the bear’s activity level during the winter months. Grizzly bears tend to be more active in the hibernation den stretching and playing when the weather is warm. During cold snaps, there is noticeably much less activity, preserving valuable body heat and energy. This research will enable a better understanding of the natural cycles of a hibernating grizzly bear.