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Grizzly bear number 122 - Date unknown Photographer unknown.
5 October 2017
The Life of Grizzly Bear Number 122


Banff Alberta - He's commonly known as the Boss, and according to research data, he lives up to his moniker.
 
Grizzly bear number 122, believed to be approximately 15-years-old, is the largest, toughest, and most dominant grizzly bear in Banff, Yoho, and Kootenay national parks.
 
"His entire world revolves around food and mating," said Steve Michel, human/wildlife conflict specialist with Banff National Park.
 
Number 122, who was the first bear out of his den this spring, has also made headlines for breaking into a dump, eating a couple of black bears, strolling through Banff's Central Park in the middle of the day, and fathering at least five of the park's younger bears.
 
He has also provided some valuable data during his time as one of the 26 bears collared during the past five years as part of a research project that's working to reduce grizzly bear mortality on the railway tracks.
 
From April 2012 to April 2013, wildlife officials were able to keep closer tabs on the then 210 kilogram male bear after he was trapped and fitted with a GPS collar.
 
He dropped it a month later, but was re-collared on 29 May 2012, when his weight had already gone up by 10 kilograms.
 
During the year he was collared, the data shows his range covered more than 2,500 square kilometres, much of it along the railway tracks and highways.
 
"It's a classic large home range," said Michel, referring to male bears being on the move a lot.
 
"He's in three national parks, Banff, Yoho, and Kootenay."
 
The data also show just how much number 122 uses transportation corridors, despite being hit by a train several years earlier, to get around the parks.
 
"It shows his dominance and his willingness to utilize habitats that are heavily developed by humans along the highway and railway and that he's got a comfort level with that and he's willing to exploit the food resources there," said Michel, noting he's been observed both picking kernels of grain off the tracks and eating dandelions along the roadway.
 
"When you see how much he uses those transportation corridors, it's remarkable he's still alive. He's on the railway an extraordinary amount of time and he's on the edge of the highway just as much."

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Since 2000, 11 grizzlies have been killed on the highways such as the Trans-Canada and Highway 93, both north and south.
 
Another 14 grizzlies have died on the railway tracks in the three mountain parks in the same time period.
 
Michel said number 122's use of the transportation corridors is something to keep in mind as they look for ways to keep bears safe.
 
The data shows he's already using the wildlife crossing structures in Banff to get across the Trans-Canada Highway, but he also goes back and forth along Highway 93S, which isn't fenced the entire way.
 
"That's a high-speed highway with lots of commercial traffic and, again, he's able to do this successfully," he said.
 
Number 122's data also shows he spends a lot of time away in burned-out areas, either from prescribed fires or wildfires, around Flints Park in Banff and in several Kootenay wildfire sites.
 
"It's a good spot from a berry productivity standpoint because of fire," explained Michel.
 
Number 122's collar stopped transmitting in spring 2013, but the Boss is never entirely off the radar.
 
In August 2013, officials closed the Sundance Canyon area after a group of hikers came across him feeding on a carcass, he simply let out a huff rather than show any signs of aggression over the interruption.
 
They investigated the incident, determining that he killed and ate a small black bear.
 
"We have become aware of him killing a couple of black bears but I suspect that's not an unusual thing," said Michel, noting number 122 will take advantage of any carcass on the landscape.
 
"It provides him with a tremendous amount of protein and often at critical times of the year."
 
A week later, he was also found feeding on an elk carcass at Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park.
 
It led to the evacuation of 12 backcountry hikers from the Rockwall trail as a precaution.
 
By October 2013, number 122 dropped his collar so any information since then has come from physical sightings and remote cameras.
 
"We never re-collared him again," said Michel.
 
"We tried. He was an animal that was desirable for us to re-collar. He was giving us such good data."
 
In addition to having such a large home range, which officials know is larger based on those photographs and sightings, he's also a dominant breeding male.
 
The DNA gathered during his collaring showed that number 122 is the father of all three of well-known number 64's offspring, number 144, who was killed last year, number 148, a well-known grizzly around the Banff townsite, and, her shy sister, number 160.
 
Both could be ready to breed this year.
 
A year earlier, the approximately 300 kilogram male also fathered both of number 72's cubs around Lake Louise, where they spend a lot of their time.
 
The six-year-old blond-coloured bears, number 142 and number 143, are among six bears that could emerge with their own cubs this year.
 
Both number 64 and number 72 have died of natural causes in recent years.
 
The large male bear is expected to mate with many of the female grizzlies again this year, including his own daughters, which Michel said is "a reality of the bear world."
 
Number 122 and at least two large male bears have been spotted around Banff National Park in the past week.
 
Despite his large size, which ranges from 225 to 325 kilograms, the Boss has never caused any problems.
 
"He's not a grizzly bear that has ever behaved in an aggressive manner," said Michel, noting he spends a lot of time in public areas.
 
"That's really concerning. What's fascinating is the fact that he never showed any aggression toward people in spite of being in very close proximity to people on a regular basis."
 
Colette Derworiz.

Quoted under the provisions in Section 29
of the Canadian Copyright Modernization Act.
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