Canada #14 Grouse Mountain
After our fleeting glimpse of grizzly bears at Whistler, it was guaranteed we would see bears on Grouse Mountain – we’d booked a date with them!
We met our first bears at the base of the mountain, in a beautifully detailed wood carving.
Once on board the Skyride gondola we quickly rose up over the forest where early morning mist clung to the treetops. At the top of the mountain, we emerged into brilliant sunshine.
Bear tracks led away from the Peak Chalet uphill to the Grizzly Bear Habitat. We took note of other wildlife we might meet, and hoped that a cougar wouldn’t cross our path.
As if they knew we were coming, Coola and Grinder were waiting outside, enjoying the sunshine in the grizzly bear habitat.
While they munched on chunks of sweet potato, our wildlife ranger Natasha told us how both bears were found in 2001 as tiny cubs, orphaned and starving. They were brought back to health at Grouse Mountain, where they live as close to a normal life as possible in their spacious enclosure, complete with a stream, large pond and forested hideaway. In winter, the bears hibernate inside their comfortable den.
We watched entranced as the bears devoured their breakfast.
Our breakfast was served inside the Grizzly Lookout Café. Leaving the bears to theirs, we enjoyed a delicious buffet which included pastry bear claws and gingerbread bears.
Later in the day, at the end of a nature walk with ranger Phil, we returned to the Grizzly Lookout and he told us more about the bears and their life on the mountain. They have never been tamed and still have all the instincts of wild bears – bad luck for unwary squirrels who manage to get over the fence!
In the 17 years since the bears arrived on the mountain, scientists have studied their habits and lifestyle, gaining knowledge they’ve used to aid bears in the wild. With the help of infrared cameras placed inside the sleeping den, scientists have discovered that hibernation is not a state of deep sleep, as had always been thought. Instead, the bears become dormant, sleeping often but moving around several times during the day, sleep walking for a few minutes or stretching and turning in their beds. Scientists now believe bears remain active to retain their condition over the winter months.
Phil ended his talk on a positive note. Rangers and scientists are hopeful that, with what they have learned from caring for Coola and Grinder, they will be able to return other orphaned cubs to the wild. Long after Phil had gone we continued watching the bears as they splashed in the pond, using sticks like toys and watching us watching them.
On Grouse Mountain, we saw much more than a glimpse of these beautiful bears.