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Rare white grizzly bear and her 2 cubs killed hours apart by cars in Canadian park

Coexisting with grizzlies in Montana
Finding ways to coexist with grizzly bears in Montana 13:44

A rare white grizzly was killed after being struck by a vehicle on the Trans-Canada Highway, about 12 hours after her two bear cubs died after being hit by a car on the same roadway, Parks Canada officials said on Tuesday. 

Park officials received a report that the two cubs were struck and killed early Thursday morning. On the evening of the same day, the cubs' mother — known as Grizzly Bear 178 — was grazing in a ditch in Yoho National Park. Officials who were fixing wildlife fencing nearby said they spotted her. 

A train passed by the ditch, and as the metal wheels screeched, workers "saw her actually startle," wildlife management specialist Saundi Stevens said during a news conference. The bear ran out of the ditch, up onto the road and "right in front of two vehicles on the highway," Stevens said. 

One of the vehicles was able to swerve but the other hit the bear, Stevens said. The officials stopped traffic, and the animal ran back into the woods with a limp. 

A rare white grizzly bear with her two cubs. All three bears were killed in two separate car crashes in Canada's Yoho National Park. Parks Canada

There were "no other apparent injuries other than the limp," Stevens said. "We were really optimistic that she may have been able to actually recover from this collision."

GB 178 often slipped through the fencing to wander the roadside, probably to forage food, Stevens said. Since 2022, wildlife specialists have spent considerable amounts of time trying to deter the bear from entering the roadside, but GB 178 was particularly skilled at identifying gaps in the fencing and breaking through them. 

Relocating the bear and her cubs "wasn't considered an option," Steven said, as they weren't on the roadside for long periods, and moving them was riskier.

Twenty-four hours after GB 178 was hit by the vehicle, wildlife specialists received a mortality signal from the bear's GPS tracker. Park officials confirmed the bear's death on Saturday. Stevens said the team was "devastated" to lose her and her two cubs in such a short period.

The team was "so deeply invested and really trying to prevent this outcome," Stevens said, imploring motorists to obey speed limits and drive cautiously.

GB 178 climbs protective wildlife fencing in a Canadian park.  Parks Canada

Stevens also addressed rumors on social media that GB 178 returned to the highway on Thursday evening to mourn for her cubs before being killed. Bears often eat their deceased young, and GB 178 showed no signs of distress after her two cubs were killed, Stevens said. 

"She displayed no signs of distress and was observed foraging for dandelions along the roadside, a behavior that was typical for her," said Stevens.

Parks Canada estimates there are approximately 90 grizzly bears in Alberta's Banff National Park and British Columbia's Yoho and Kootenay national parks. While the exact numbers of the bears fluctuate year to year, the population is considered stable. From 2019 to now, 13 grizzly bears have been killed in the parks, with four killed in the first half of 2024 — the highest tally to date.

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