Bears (& more bears)Posted: June 28, 2009
With the recent rains accelerating the green-up of the Lake Louise ski area’s slopes, the bears have arrived in force, and it looks like we’ve entered a period of daily bear sightings. Until a few days ago, bear sightings had been somewhat sporadic in location and time of day. Now the bears seem to have adopted a bit of a routine, as they appear more or less at the same time of day and in the same areas.
Guests riding our summer lift for the last few days have been lucky to see four different grizzly bears, all on the same ride. Today, a sow grizzly with two large cubs were grazing for a few hours on Juniper, right next to and under the lift. They appear oblivious to the lift running overhead, and quietly go about finding whatever food they can. A fourth grizzly was spotted on Upper Wiwaxy (the part visible from the lift), forcing us to close the Kicking Horse trail. This trail ascends from the top of the lift, following a road that goes up to the base of the Summit platter.
Often in the national park, if a bear frequents an area with trails going through it, warnings are posted, and people are advised to use another trail. The trail generally remains open. In the case of a bear that has displayed aggression towards people, or even a lack of fear around them, the trail will close until the bear has moved on.
In our case, there are a few unique factors that dictate whether a trail remains open or closed. While many people assume a trail closure is for public safety, we also must consider the safety of the bear, an amazing and iconic animal in Banff National Park. By reducing the chance of human-bear encounters, we help the bear maintain a healthy fear of humans. As has too often been the case, stories of bears that get to comfortable around people generally do not have happy endings for the bear. Because we operate a lift that brings more people to an area that would otherwise see much less traffic, a trail closure is the only effective way to ensure that bears have the ability to go about their business without the stress of human encroachment.
For now, with grizzlies spending so much time near the summer lift, visitors to the Lake Louise Ski Area are being treated to a rare opportunity to safely get close to one of the most beautiful and powerful animals in the park. The photos below were taken earlier today, all from the summer lift. I was lucky enough to see the bears on both my uphill and downhill trips, and they had barely moved in the fifteen minutes between the trips.