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Well-known white grizzly bear dies after collision on Trans-Canada

A white grizzly, known as Bear 178, is seen with her two cubs. All three bears died due to collisions on the Trans-Canada Highway on June 6. (Courtesy: Parks Canada) A white grizzly, known as Bear 178, is seen with her two cubs. All three bears died due to collisions on the Trans-Canada Highway on June 6. (Courtesy: Parks Canada)
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A well-known white grizzly bear often seen near the Trans-Canada Highway has died after being hit by a vehicle.

Parks Canada confirmed the bear, known as Bear 178, was hit by a vehicle on June 6 approximately 12 hours after her two cubs were killed in a separate collision on the highway in Yoho National Park.

Wildlife management staff were in the area performing repairs to fencing when the bear was struck.

“The bear was startled by a train and ran into the road in front of two vehicles,” Parks Canada said in a news release.

“One vehicle was able to swerve and avoid a collision, but a second vehicle was unable to react in time and struck the bear.”

Parks Canada said the collision took place between Wapta Lake and the Lake O’Hara access road, approximately 15 kilometres west of Lake Louise.

The bear was seen climbing back over the fence and running into the forest with a slight limp. She was confirmed dead by officials on Saturday, after receiving a mortality signal from her GPS collar.

She is believed to have succumbed to internal injuries. Parks Canada staff consulted with a wildlife veterinarian, who believed the best chance for a positive outcome was to give the bear some time and space to recover from her injuries.

Due to her injuries being mostly internal, the vet said there wasn’t care that would have been able to save her.

Parks Canada officials say the bear was comfortable spending time near the road due to how habituated to humans she was.

“The significant interest from visitors to the park and motorists travelling the highway led to her having a very high level of human interaction which caused her to become overly comfortable along the Trans-Canada Highway,” Parks Canada said.

Saundi Stevens, a wildlife management specialist with Parks Canada, addressed speculation from social media about the circumstances of the bear’s death.

“It’s been suggested that she returned to the highway that day to mourn her deceased cubs,”

“In reality, bears often eat their deceased young, which humans might not see as an act of mourning.”

Stevens said the bear had been observed grazing near the side of the highway throughout the day, between where her cubs were hit and where she was struck later in the day.

“She never displayed any signs of distress, she wasn’t running back and forth across the highway, she was observed, each and every time, foraging for dandelions along the roadside, in the ditch, just a behaviour that was really typical for her,” she said.

Parks Canada encouraged visitors not to stop to view wildlife in parks, to drive cautiously and obey speed limits.

The park’s wildlife management team has been managing the bear’s movements since 2022, with work sometimes involving accompanying her from dawn until dusk.

Parks Canada said the team developed a strong connection with the bear and her death has been “devastating for the team that was so deeply invested in trying to prevent this outcome.”

The bear had previously been relocated away from the highway and was the inspiration for a no-stopping zone in the area.

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