The Canadian Rockies is known internationally for its beauty. As beautiful as the majestic Canadian Rocky Mountain are, they come with their dangers. Banff National Park is bear country. During the summer month, the Bears of Banff can be spotted throughout our Rocky Mountains.

Bears are notoriously intelligent and curious animals. While experts say that sight is the weakest sense bears possess, it’s important for us humans to remember that their eyesight is still comparable to our eyesight. Bears are known to have an acute sense of hearing; their hearing is estimated to be twice as sensitive as human hearing. For bears, their strongest sense in their sense of smell, experts say that bears can smell food upwind at a distance of 20 miles away.

In the summer month’s bears are exceptionally motivated by food. All species of bears spend the majority of their waking hours searching for food to sustain their growth, feed their offspring, and to prepare for winter hibernation.

The Bears of Banff

Banff National Park  is home to both Grizzly Bears and Black Bears.

Grizzly Bears:

While the fur coat of grizzly bears can range from a light blonde to a dark brown, Grizzlies will have an ombre tipped hairs which give them a grizzled look (hence their name). The Grizzly Bear, except for the momma bear, tend to be solitary animals. They like their personal space. (Up to 4,000 acres of personal space). Grizzly bears are distinguishable by their large size, and the prominent hump they have on their shoulders. Male grizzly bears weigh an average of 550lbs, and females weigh and an average of 330 lbs. An adult grizzly will have a shoulder height of 3’4” and a length of 6 feet. Grizzly bears are beautiful and dominant creatures that will defend themselves.

At Banff Sunshine, several prominent grizzlies are known to the area. Bear 136 (Split Lip) and Bear 148 are often seen on the Sunshine Access Road.

Black Bears:
The black bear is the smaller of the two bears species living in Banff National Park. Don’t let the name fool you; black bears can vary in color from blonde to black. In contrast to Grizzly Bears, Black Bears tend to be smaller. The average male will weigh 300lbs, and and the average female will weigh only 150 lbs. The most notable difference between black bears and grizzly bears is that black bears are smaller in size. Black bears have a more shoulder frame and a longer face. Black bears tend to be shy and less aggressive than grizzly bears. Black Bears are omnivores. Their diets are heavily influenced by the season.  It’s estimated that 85% of a Black Bear’s diet is made up of berries, roots, bulbs, and corms.

At Banff Sunshine, black bears can occasionally be spotted on the Sunshine Access Road eating dandelions.

Bear Safety Tips:

From A Car:
- Be mindful of Bear Jams, as amazing as it is to see a bear in the wild, your safety and the safety of others needs to be considered first. If you see a bear from the highway or on the road be mindful of other vehicles.
- Always stay in your car, and never feed the animals.

When Hiking:
- Be Bear Aware! When hiking stay alert and keep an eye out for bears. Watch for recent bear evidence such as scat, diggings, and bear tracks.
- Always travel in groups of two or more for safety.
- Make some noise, when in bear country always make noise to let the bears, and other animals, know that you are in the area. Singing and loud voices are the most compelling sounds to let bears know you’re there.
- Pick hikes, like Sunshine Meadows, that have clear lines of visibility.
- Keep your distance, if you spot bear back a way to give him space. Do not move closer to take a photo.
- Always travel with bear spray when hiking in bear country.

If a bear does approach you and your party, you can use the bear spray at close range. Note that bear spray is to be used only on an aggressive or attacking bear in close range. When using bear spray, take a moment to think before discharging the pepper spray. It is important to spray the bear down wind to not injure yourself.

If you’re lucky to see a bear in Banff National Park, be mindful to respect the animal. Keep your distance, make noise, and do not leave food for the animal. For more information on wildlife watching visit Parks Canada