December 9, 2013

Grizzly Bears and the Wonders of GPS, Take 2!

In March, we wrote about grizzly bears being fitted with GPS collars during the summer of 2012.  Since then, the 2013 season for bears has fully played out: they woke up, roamed around for a summer and, with a couple of exceptions, they've now all gone back to bed.  Surprise, surprise, there were at least two bears still active in the park on the weekend, even though it was -38 Celsius in Lake Louise!

Here's the four coolest things that the GPS collars revealed this year:

1. EARLIEST WAKE UP: Bear #122 woke up on March 24.  This adult male is one of Banff's biggest bears (about 700 lbs), and he always wakes up early. Unfortunately, his collar is no longer working, but we know that as recently as three weeks ago, he hauled a drowned elk out of the frozen Bow River, dragged it to shore, and was having a late-season meal.

2. SHORTEST SUMMER SEASON: Bear #72, a female who has lived in the greater Lake Louise area for over a dozen years, was active for less than five months this year!  She came out of hibernation on May 4 and denned up on October 1.  Her big news: she was seen mating in June and may have new cubs next spring.

Bear #72 in Upper Consolation Valley

3. LONGEST HIBERNATION: Bear #64, a famous female who lives near Banff, denned from October 12, last fall until to May 3, 2013.  That's six months and 21 days!  During that whole time, she didn't eat or drink anything.  Great weight-loss strategy!

4. BEST USE OF THE GPS TECHNOLOGY: When Bear #138, a young female, went to into her den on November 1, she chose to snooze in Pipestone Bowl, which is adjacent to the Lake Louise ski area.  Since it is popular with out-of-bounds skiers, Parks Canada decided to close the bowl for the winter, so she can sleep in peace.  Without the GPS signal, they wouldn't have known she had denned up there.

We'll keep you posted on the comings and goings of Banff's bear's next year.

December 3, 2013

Skating on Bow Lake

 “Bow Lake is in, and it's like a mirror!”

Those words may not make your heart beat faster, but if you like to skate, this is exciting news indeed.  Bow Lake, along the Icefields Parkway, is one of the park's most accessible and photogenic bodies of water.  Last week, after the first of our winter's cold snaps, it froze clean with no snow.  Lake ice never stays flawless for long, so we put in several days of skating while the opportunity held.

The ice was smooth and thick, reflecting both us and the mountains.  It was also so transparent that it gave us the willies when we skated into the shallower sections of the lake.  We could see right to the bottom, and the fish shot off in front of us as we passed.

Because of the cold and the humidity, small impurities on the lake's surface had given rise to “ice flowers”, delicate and exquisite blossoms of frost.  We ended up splayed out on the ice, like kids, to take in the small scale beauty.

An "ice flower"

Taking in the beauty, up close

New snow fell on the weekend, and now we wait for the next lake to freeze....