When backpackers in Canada find out that I’m a Canadian, they assume that I have seen everything you could possibly see in this country. While I’ve seen a fair amount, I still feel as if I haven’t scratched the surface. One of the big questions I always get asked is “Have you seen a polar bear?” followed shortly by “How about a Grizzly?“. While I get to feel pretty cool saying I’ve seen the latter, I often have to explain that Polar Bears are tough to get to without a good savings of cash to pay your way up north.
I figured since this question is asked so often that I would find some maps of bear locations and sightings. Perhaps this will better explain myself in the future, or help people understand how remote bears can be. However, unless you’re a trained professional or happen to speak the bear language, I wouldn’t recommend trying to spot them yourself in the wild. Bears can be pretty unpredictable, but knowing where their territory starts and ends can help make visiting these remote locations safer for you, and the bears.
Polar Bear Territory
Polar Bears are tough to reach. They’re not going to be found on any normal roadtrip. Expect to take the train up to Churchill from Winnipeg to get a chance to see them, unless you’re cool with seeing them in a zoo. Check out Tundra Buggy – a company that promises to show you wild polar bears (and black bears too) from the safety of an elevated buggy. They drive across some of Canada’s roughest terrain in order to get to spot these white fluffy (and incredibly deadly) creatures. Check out Tundra Buggy for more info.
Grouse Mountain has a Wildlife Refuge, they’re home to Grey Wolves and yes, Grizzlies! You can watch them from a safe distance during the Spring and Summer. While it may not be the most wild Grizzly you could see, it gives you a good sense of their nature. Check out The Grouse Mountain wildlife-refuge for more info. If you’re really adamant about seeing a Grizzly in the wild, you can often spot them between Banff and Jasper along the highways. However, there’s a few “unwritten rules” you should adhere to when you’ve spot a bear along the highways.
1. Do not leave your vehicle for a photo, bears are faster than you think.
2. Do not feed the bears. Ever! A fed bear is a dead bear. If they get used to human contact, they get put down by the park. So save a bear, and your food!
3. Stop only for a short while, grab your photo and be on your way. Try your best not to start a Bear Jam. If more than two cars are watching a bear, you can bet that the next 30 vehicles will stop too. It gets pretty ugly quick when that happens.
Black Bear Territory
These little bears (in comparison to grizzlies) can be seen throughout Canada. They tend to keep to themselves like most bears, but don’t let their size in the bear kingdom confuse you. Black Bears attack just like the rest of them. They’re primarily found in the northern parts of the provinces and territories, but have been spotted in the southern parts as well. Campers are typically warned if there are bears in the area, and what type of extra precautions need to be made.
Brown Bear Territory
Brown bears have one of the smallest amounts of territory, and their numbers are still up for debate. Brown Bears size and weight can change drastically, depending on whether they’re located inland or on the coast. Personally I have never seen a brown bear but I have friends who’ve come across them camping deep in the bush. Just like every other bear out there; keep a safe distance. Remember that when you’re in their territory, you’re not at the top of the food chain anymore. Brown Bears can be spotted in the northern parts of BC and Alberta, as well as the Yukon & Alaska.
Kermode Bear Territory
The Kermode Bear, or “The Spirit Bear” is a white (think polar bear-esque) bear that lives in the pacific west coast of Canada in a small region of islands and forest. They are one of the rarest bears you can find, and local legends and myths surround this magnificent creatures. Lately there’s been some serious threats to their habitat with Enbridge Tankers (famous for over 800 oil spills) & a pipeline that is set to expand into this area. If you’re keen on protesting, sign this petition to help show your concern. These bears possess a very small region of Canada, and are rarely sighted by humans due to their remote territory.
I am by all means not an expert in bears, I can count on two hands how many times I’ve seen them. They’re one of the most awesome animals to spot in Canada. However, sightings need to be done from a safe distance. These animals are powerful, and due to this crazy strength the moment they start interacting with human life their own lives are put in danger, as are the people they’ve grown accustom to.
Bears need to be respected and admired from afar. Youtube tends to be the safest distance you could get, so enjoy this great Grizzly Footage.