Grizzly Bear Refuge History
Boo was born in the wild, not in captivity. Tragically, his mother was shot and killed by a poacher in June 2002, leaving Boo and his brother, Cari, orphaned and defenseless at just five months of age. The cubs might have been euthanized, but instead were given a second lease on life and a new home at the Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Refuge.
Cari and Boo were named for British Columbia’s Cariboo Mountains where they were born. The Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Refuge was built specifically for the orphaned cubs. Observing their behavior and life skill development has provided a unique opportunity for grizzly bear research. Observations about foraging, play, sleep, social skills, and many other activities are recorded daily. The cubs’ development was the subject of one researcher’s Master’s thesis.
Among other things, the refuge permits a rare in-depth analysis of grizzly bear hibernation. A log den was constructed within the refuge for the cubs to use in the winter. This custom-built den includes a motion-activated camera in the roof that allows continuous monitoring of activity inside. As a result, we now know that grizzly bears engage in limited activity during the winter, unlike true hibernators. For that reason we now use the more accurate term winter dormancy rather than hibernation when referring to a bear’s winter slumber.
Sadly, Cari never awoke from his first winter dormancy and passed away within the den. The provincial veterinary laboratory performed a necropsy and discovered that Cari had died from a spontaneous twist of his intestines.
Boo demonstrated great resilience by overcoming the loss of both his mother and brother. Since Cari’s death, Boo has lived alone at the refuge. Male grizzly bears are very solitary animals, however, so being alone is a natural condition for him. Nevertheless, Boo sometimes gets the urge to meet lady grizzlies during mating season. It was national news when Boo escaped from the refuge in June 2006 for this reason, before eventually returning voluntarily.
By observing Boo over the last 10 years, we have concluded that an orphaned grizzly cub can learn essential life skills on its own, without a mother bear’s guidance, provided the cub has suitable habitat, space, and opportunity like that provided by the refuge.
Boo will live out his lifetime at the Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Refuge. He serves a vital role that we hope will benefit future orphaned grizzly bear cubs. We continue to learn from Boo, while at the same time allowing him to live the best captive life possible. He is an inspiration for everyone who comes to see him and he is an outstanding ambassador for this magnificent species.