It’s snack time for Boo the Bear. Ross Prather approaches with a bucket of fish carcasses and kitchen compost. It’s a hot summer’s day and Boo has found a shady spot among the fir trees to laze away the afternoon. However the scent of a snack gets his attention; a grizzly’s sense of smell is so acute it can detect an animal carcass more than 30 kms away upwind. Under normal circumstances such proximity would be perilous – man with bucket of food, hungry 275 kg grizzly bear steps away – if it wasn’t for the electric fence separating the two.
Boo the Bear has made his home at Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Interpretive Centre since first arriving in 2003, when he was orphaned after his mother was shot by a poacher. Over the years Prather, refuge manager, has gotten to know this wise old bear well. The specially built, 10-hectare fenced enclosure, found on the Eagle Express Gondola lift line and accessed in summer via the Catamount chairlift, provides a natural habitat for Boo, with forest, meadows and a running stream.
Ursus arctos horribilis – the grizzly’s Latin name is enough to strike fear into the hearts of even the most seasoned wilderness traveler. However the opportunity to observe this animal up close is a thrilling experience, enabling visitors like my family and I to better understand grizzly behavior and ecology with the help of Prather and his staff. At times Boo stays deep within the confines of his enclosure, perhaps eating dandelions and digging for springtime bulbs in a meadow, or hunting for squirrel or marmots. However when curiosity gets the best of him, or the dinner bell rings, he approaches the fence. We’re lucky today. Boo lumbers out of the forest, snout pointing upward, his powerful shoulders rippling, lustrous silver-brown fir gleaming in the sun. It’ hard to overcome the urge to retreat as Boo comes close, but the fence keeps us safe.
A male grizzly typically ranges a territory of between 350 and 800 square kms, but Boo seems content with his home at Kicking Horse Resort – for the most part. Occasionally his urge has gotten the best of him.
“Boo gets a little randy in springtime,” Prather says, adding that he has left his enclosure a few times in the past in search of a mate.
However he always comes back.
Meal time is over. A horsefly buzzes courageously nearby and Boo shakes his massive head. Oblivious to my family and I observing from a few metres away, he strides the fence line before angling back into the forest and finding a nice muddy pool in which to cool himself. He lowers into the brown water, rolls from side to side, then emerges again, fir dripping with water, then disappears into the cool of the forest. Life is good for Boo and we’re thrilled to share a few moments with him.
Disclaimer – Andrew visited Kicking Horse Mountain Resort to see Boo in 2016, Ross has since left his position with Nicole Gangnon taking over as Grizzly Bear Ranger Manager. Visit Kicking Horse this winter to see Nicole and her team caring for Boo.