Motion-Sensor Cameras Capture Grizzlies As They Use Rub Trees To Say Hi To Their Neighbours

The Wild Canadian Year crew set off into the woods with a Banff bear expert to look for ‘rub trees’ — hot spot trees where grizzlies rub against the trunks to communicate with other bears nearby. It’s the equivalent of a Facebook post in the bear world.

Leaving a scent on the trees sends a message to the other local bears in the area – messages like “Hey I’m single and looking for a mate” or “I’m the top bear around here, so keep your distance”. 

The team installed camera traps — cameras that start recording when they sense motion — to capture this up-close and often hilarious behaviour. 

“We kept our fingers crossed for a bear sighting, but we secretly hoped it wouldn’t be too close, especially when we were setting our cameras up,” says Graham Duggan, researcher on the team.

install cameras in Banff National Park

They quickly found sites close to Lake Louise that showed signs of recent activity; bear fur was stuck to the bark, footprints led up to the trees and lots of bear scat. “We were aware that there might be eyes watching us from the thick woods,” he recalls.

One afternoon, the crew saw a young female grizzly near Lake Louise as she grazed on fresh spring grass and flowers in a meadow. She was a bear known to their local guide — a healthy and good-looking 6 year old (that’s about 25 years old in bear years) that shared the same territory as as her mother.  “It was incredible to enjoy a moment watching her munch away on dandelions,” remembers Duggan.

The cameras were installed for more than two months. Park staff assisted the crew by checking up on them and swapping out memory cards and batteries. In addition to grizzlies, the camera also recorded black bears, wolves, elk and deer — a testament to the diversity of wildlife at Banff National Park!

Click play on the video above to watch.

The Wild Canadian Year continues Sundays at 8 pm on CBC-TV.

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