Banff grizzly continues to roam railways after being struck by train

The Boss

A grizzly bear first made famous for his cannibal-like behaviour might be even tougher than once thought.

As a resident of three rocky mountain parks—Banff, Yoho, and Kootenay—Bear 122 has built himself a serious reputation. Given the moniker, “The Boss,” after he made headlines for feasting on one of Banff National Park’s black bears, breaking into a dump, strolling through Banff’s Central Park, and fathering at least five of the park’s younger bears, the grizzly continues to live up to his name.

According to reports, the 15-year-old, 650-pound bear not only survived being struck by a train, but he appears completely unfazed by it.

Steve Michel, a human-wildlife conflict specialist with Banff National Park, told CBC News that researchers believe the bear was hit by a train several years ago.

But that’s not the shocking part. In fact, he’s hardly the only one. Since 2000, 11 grizzlies have died on the railway tracks running through the mountain parks, and according to a 2012 report, trains are the number one killer of wildlife in Banff National Park. What is surprising, though, is that he survived and continues to frequent the tracks.

The Boss was fitted with a GPS collar in 2012 so that Parks Canada researchers could figure out why so many bears were being hit by trains and reduce animal mortalities caused by humans. Their tracking data has since revealed that the bear has a range of 2500-square-kilometres, and that he often travels and forages along railways, even after being struck. He also regularly moves along high-speed, heavy traffic highways, like the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 93S.

Photo by Parks Canada

“I think he’s actually been lucky in that he has been able to survive while utilizing these transportation corridors for so long,” Michel told CBC News.

“He probably learned a lesson…making sure that he gets himself off the tracks when a train is approaching.”

But even though he’s known as the largest and most dominant bear in the park, and is often spotted by humans, he’s pretty mellow around people.

“The interesting thing about that is despite all of 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,” Michel said, including that time the hikers found him feeding on the bear carcass.