Wildlife officials in Alberta are sadly on the search for “Bear 88.”
The 23-year-old grizzly, who for the past 13 years has mostly kept to herself, recently attacked two unoccupied vehicles in the Kananaskis village. The grizzly also attempted to break into multiple trailers at Mount Kidd RV park, leaving one damaged.
Park officials are currently tracking the bear, and it is likely that she will have to be destroyed to prevent further problems.
Alberta parks ecologist John Paczkowski told Global News that “It’s heart-breaking to see a bear cross the line like that—this is a rare and unusual occurrence.”
Last seen on a wildlife camera in Kananskis in 2012, recent DNA testing confirmed that the October 6th damage was number 88’s doing.
Terry Sieben, owner of an auto body shop in Canmore, was amazed by the damage caused to the vehicles by the bear, calling it “very unusual.” Sieben has fixed many vehicles damaged in collisions with bears in the past year, but this is the first case of vehicles attacked by a bear that he has witnessed.
He told Global News, “I’ve only seen, back a few years ago, a bear doing maybe one claw mark—not going around the car and really trying to demolish it to get into it.” In one case, Bear 88 scratched the entire car, biting through the bumper, jumping on the car, and doing much damage to the paint.
The car belonged to a local business owner and was parked in the Village of Kananskis. Some speculate that the bear may have been attracted to the scent of a pet in the vehicle who was not present when the grizzly bear attacked the car, but the vehicle did however have a large amount of dog hair inside of it. Park ecologist Paczkowski reported that there were no smelly sources of food in any of the vehicles Bear 88 damaged.
Sieben says “(She) just really wanted to get into that vehicle for some reason,” going as far as wounding herself while she broke into the vehicle and losing some blood. Auto shop employees also located tufts of the bear’s fur stuck to the vehicles.
Pacxkowski says that the decision to destroy Bear 88 has to do with her age, the repeated damage to property, and also public safety. With the life expectancy of a female grizzly being only 25 years, Bear 88 is reaching the end of her life cycle.
Alberta Parks reports that berry crop shortages have made this past year an “exceptionally poor food year for bears” and Paczkowski commented that this could be a potential reason for Bear 88’s break ins. The euthanization of bear cubs in Alberta, as opposed to attempts to rehabilitate them, has also been a hot topic of discussion amidst current food shortages and other environmental instabilities.