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The Alberta Story: Bear Hunt in Banff

Never schedule wildlife into your calendar, because they probably won’t show.

Grizzly bears are the elusive megafauna of the Canadian Rockies and the mere knowledge of their presence had me on the hunt, hoping to catch a glimpse of the impressive animal. My search for bears was accompanied by an entire film crew, as well as the  bear guardians, who work full-time to ensure positive human-bear interactions in Banff National Park.I was thrilled to be included in the Alberta Stories video series and grateful for the chance to explore so much of beautiful Banff National Park, but saddened by the fact that after 48 hours of constant searching, I still had seen not a single bear. I did, however, find a pair of wolf cubs, lots of deer and wonderful birds, as well as two bighorn sheep grazing by the roadside. Bighorn sheep are Alberta’s official animal, so I took it as a good sign that I should see one in the wild and up-close. This is the wonder of Banff–that the wildlife is so unbothered and nonchalant that they will push right past your car, as if they don’t even see you.

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Bighorn sheep in Banff, the official animal of Alberta (Photo by Andrew Evans, National Geographic Traveler)

Banff is Canada’s original national park, founded in 1885 and inspiring the chain of national parks that decorate the whole of Canada today. About 60 grizzly bears still inhabit this patch of wild Rocky Mountain landscape, along with dozens of black bears, so I thought we had a good chance of getting some on film.

Of course, during my two-day search for bears, I received a flood of tweets from readers telling me all the bears they have seen around the area in the last few days–on the road, on the golf course, in their own backyard, or up in Jasper. Such is the nature of Alberta‘s nature: the whole country is a national park, of sorts, and the boundaries of wilderness constantly blurred.

But try to get a grizzly to show up on camera is a whole other story, and though I haven’t given up hope entirely, I am focusing on the wonderful wildlife that I can see, to which there is no end.

As @Tamaranorbust tweeted last night, “In my experience, bears come along when you least expect them.” And she’s right.

“Yes” I replied, “Like hailstorms, or true love.”

Because you can’t schedule any of those things, but you might find all three, in Alberta.

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Not a bear, but a baby wolf cub, born this year, foraging on the roadside in Banff National Park (Photo by Andrew Evans, National Geographic)

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