Pretty soon there will be one less bear in the Park. How come?
This spring, a grizzly, as you’ve heard through the pages of The Local, has been busting into warden cabins on the South Boundary Trail. He’s been helping himself to things like boxes of stale Bisquick, jars of rancid peanut butter and his favourite of the lot: half-mouldy sacks of horse oats.
There are just two things on the mind of bears; make that three. Food. Sex. And more food (not unlike us, really). This Big Fella has been having a ball. He’s been doing laps, visiting all the unoccupied warden cabins laid out on the South Boundary like food stations at a marathon. He’s had the place to himself.
The Brazeau River valley lost its snow real early this year. By the beginning of May it had gone. How do I know this? Did I get the information from the warden service? No. I climbed a mountain at Nigel Pass in early May and saw for myself; the first wardens wouldn’t come through for another month (that’s when they discovered the grizzly rampage).
I could see down to Four Point cabin—the first fast-food joint the Griz hit—past Brazeau Lake and the second cabin, and beyond almost to Isaac Creek. But I couldn’t see the Big Fella, nor were there any of his tracks up at the pass. He was operating in snow-free country down below.
I fried eggs, bacon and sausage for breakfast on that trip. A couple of nights I fixed pork chops over the fire, and one evening I had fried shrimp and garlic in a cream sauce. Delicious. Who knows, Grizz might have caught a whiff, but he didn’t come calling; he was as leery of me as I was of him. That’s how it is with bears. Sure, he probably came to my camp after I left, sniffed and scratched around a bit. Again, like us, bears are curious. I’d burned the shrimp shells and the pork bones, tidied up nice, so there was nothing at my camp for him other than strange smells. He might have even picked up the lingering odour of my socks, but whatever, it was him and me and we got on OK.
Now the wildlife conflict staff have cameras up on the trails looking for him. They’ve snapped several pictures of his comings and goings. Maybe they have shots of him with his paws on his ears, tongue stuck out, doing the bear version of a Nelson Muntz: HA! HA! Sooner or later, however, like the Mounties, chances are that Parks will get their bear.
It will be a bullet, then a helicopter to dispose of the body in an unmarked grave—as if the Big Fella was some type of criminal—but not before they run the autopsy. They might find an ancient bullet lodged deep in his shoulder bone. The Big Fella got it when he made the mistake of stepping out the park during hunting season. They’ll probably find a couple of claws missing from his paws. He lost those digging up marmots and ground squirrels. He’ll be missing a few teeth (as happens to the best of us). But most surprisingly, when they cut open his stomach, they will find—along with the kinnikinnik berries—the remains of a Bisquick box with the best before date (02/01) still legible.
However, it wasn’t the rancid peanut butter (do bears have peanut allergies?), or the pancake mix or the mouldy oats. It wasn’t even the warden’s bullet that did it for him. No, Old Griz was killed by budget cuts.
Once upon a time the wardens, those guardians of the wild places, lived out there in those cabins. They knew their animals—many by name—and they knew what was going on in their territory. They knew how to deal with a bear that was becoming a bit of a nuisance.
Those days are gone now. Today, only three part-time resource management specialists cover 10,860 square kms of Jasper’s wilderness. Warden cabins are seldom used, let alone occupied for any stretch of time.
Yes, like most things Griz will meet his end because of money . . . And now there is one less bear on the South Boundary.