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Banff Bear 122 unafraid of railways, even after being hit by train

Bear 122 doesn't just eat other bears and impregnate females to demonstrate his dominance, he also gets struck by trains and lives to tell the tale.

'The Boss' was first to emerge from hibernation in Banff, roams over 2,500 sq. km

'The Boss' or Bear 122 often crosses high-speed highways.

The biggest, baddest bear in Banff National Park doesn't just eat other bears and impregnate females to demonstrate his dominance, he also gets struck by a train and lives to tell the tale. 

To say Bear 122 has a bit of a reputation would be a gross understatement — the 15-year-old bear weighs in at roughly 300 kilograms, has eaten a black bear, is often the first bear out of hibernation, and is well known for having fathered many of the cubs in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks. 

Steve Michel, a human wildlife conflict specialist with Banff National Park, said researchers believe "The Boss" grizzly was struck by a train several years ago.

In spite of that, tracking data shows that the bear continues to use the railways heavily, for travel and foraging. 

"He probably learned a lesson from that, making sure that he gets himself off the tracks when a train is approaching," Michel said.

According to Parks Canada mapping, the bear frequently crosses high-speed, heavy-traffic highways, including the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 93S.

"I think he's actually been lucky in that he has been able to survive while utilizing these transportation corridors for so long," Michel said.

Here is Bear 122, aka "The Boss" travelling along Rundle Riverside Trail near Canmore. (Parks Canada)

Bear 122 has an enormous home range of more than 2,500 square kilometres and has grown "relatively habituated to humans" and their infrastructure because of how frequently he sees and is seen by them while wandering. 

"For many people it's the absolutely highlight of their visit here — if not the highlight of their life — because he's such an impressive animal to see," Michel said.

"The interesting thing about that is despite of all those many close-range situations where he's been observed by people on a regular basis there's never been any aggression on his part."

With files from Erika Stark

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