For the first time ever recorded, Canada’s three iconic bears—the grizzly, the black bear, and the polar bear—are all living together in the same geographic region.
A wildlife camera set up in Manitoba’s Wapusk National Park, which is located just south of Churchill, captured photos of not only black bears and polar bears, but also grizzlies, which means the great beasts are roaming outside of their normal territory.
“Seeing all three species of bear in Canada and in North America, at one spot, ‘unique’ doesn’t even begin to describe,” says Doug Clark, a researcher with the University of Saskatchewan, in an interview with the CBC. Clark has been researching the bears in Wapusk with the university and Parks Canada since 2011.
“There are only a couple of places where you’d even have the potential for that in North America and Wapusk National Park is the only place where that amount of overlap has been documented,” says Clark.
Over the course of seven months, the cameras spotted all three bear species in the same space, as well as caribou, moose, wolverines, and geese.
Moreover, these photos are significant because they show that the grizzly bear could possibly be thriving in an area where they were thought to be locally extinct.
The cameras documented a grizzly in the exact same spot, exactly one year apart, which Clarks suggests could mean it’s denning nearby.
“That’s pure speculation, but it’s speculation informed by knowing that grizzly bears are able to move enormous distances and a mature bear like that doesn’t do a whole lot by chance,” Clark says.
“It’s well past the point where it can be dismissed as just one bear wandering through.”
According to Parks Canada, the prairie population of grizzlies was extinguished through “human intolerance, market hunting, rapid conversion of habitat to agricultural fields, and the loss of buffalo as prey.”
These photos suggest that the grizzly bear—a distant cousin of the polar bear—may finally be making a long overdue comeback in Manitoba since the last official bear of the prairie population was shot and killed in 1923.