BANFF, Alta. — One of three black bear cubs abandoned in a washroom and returned to the wild in Banff National Park this summer has apparently been eaten by a grizzly bear.
Parks Canada says conservation officers found the one-year-old bear’s carcass in early September after her GPS collar went into mortality mode on Aug. 28. It had been stationary for 24 hours.
“It was in a large berry patch,” said Bill Hunt, manager of resource conservation with Banff National Park. “She had run into another bear. She had been mostly consumed by the other bear and we found a large puncture wound in her skull.
“Whether that was a grizzly or a large black bear, we can’t know for sure. It’s consistent with a grizzly bear encounter.”
The three black bears were found in the bathroom along the Trans-Canada Highway in April 2017 and sent to the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Ontario. Each bear has grown to about 50 kilograms from the three kilograms they weighed when they first went to the wildlife sanctuary.
The three sisters were released together in the Banff backcountry in mid-July and started travelling independently almost immediately.
Hunt said the bear that was found dead was doing well prior to its encounter in the berry patch.
“She had found the right food in the right place,” he said. “She was in the Clearwater area and had moved through some areas where there would have been camps and other activity in the area and hadn’t gotten into any trouble so that was encouraging.”
Officials are still monitoring the other two bears through their GPS collars and they appear to be moving around within the national park.
Hunt said it’s not uncommon for bears to be eaten by other bears.
“Bears work hard to avoid each other but, unless it’s breeding season, it’s usually not a positive encounter when bears run into other bears,” he said. “This happens in the wild. It’s a natural process.”
In November 2015, a large male grizzly bear was suspected of eating a smaller grizzly bear after officials found the skull.
In August 2013, hikers came across another big grizzly bear feeding on a carcass just off a hiking trail near the Banff townsite. Wildlife officials later determined a small black bear had been killed.