Bear family

Banff National Park

Bears and people have shared this land for thousands of years. Our challenge today is to live in harmony with these wilderness icons so they can continue to make a living here long into the future.

Grizzly bears and black bears can both be found in Banff National Park. Sometimes it can be tricky to tell them apart—especially at a quick glance.

Weekly bear report: Banff, Yoho & Kootenay National Parks

Grizzly bear

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) lists grizzly bears as a "Special Concern" species due to characteristics that make it particularly sensitive to human activities or natural events. It takes a big land base to support a self-sustaining population of grizzly bears. Even the combined area of Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay national parks does not provide enough habitat on its own.

Quick Facts

Weight: 150-300 kg (males) and 80-150 kg (females)

Diet: mostly plants, 15% of diet is meat

Lifespan: of 20-30 years

Status: Special Concern (SARA)


Grizzly bears have one of the lowest known reproductive rates of all Alberta land mammals. The rate is even lower for grizzlies living here in the Canadian Rockies. Females have their first cubs at 5-8 years of age and may not become pregnant again for 4-5 years.

Cubs learn a lot during the three or more years they spend with their mom. She shows them the best places to dig roots in spring, feast on berries in summer and flip rocks to find insects and their larvae in fall. They learn to search for winter-killed wildlife, newborn elk calves, and hibernating ground squirrels.

Adult female grizzlies may cover a 200-500 km2 area wandering in search for food. Adult males cover even more ground – up to 2000 km2. After six months or so, food becomes scarce and the bears move into their dens to sleep the winter.

Where can you see them?

Look for grizzly bears feeding on dandelions in spring and early summer along park highways. Best viewing times for most park wildlife is dawn and dusk. Never approach or feed a bear.

Why is the Grizzly bear endangered?

Grizzly bears are at risk for the following reasons:

  • Towns, roads, and other land uses are breaking their habitat into increasingly small pieces.
  • Every year bears are killed on roads and railways.
  • Grizzly bear populations take a long time to recover due to their low reproductive rate.
What are we doing to help?

Banff National Park is helping to maintain grizzly bear populations by:

  • Working with provincial partners to maintain grizzly bear populations in the broader Rocky Mountain landscape.
  • Monitoring bear activity in the park using remote wildlife cameras and sightings.
  • Installing fencing, overpasses and underpasses to allow them to cross highways safely.
  • Finding ways to keep grizzly bears safe along railways.
  • Reducing bear attractants.
  • Educating park visitors about how to keep themselves and bears safe.

Learn how you can do your part to help too when visiting Banff National Park.

Black bear

Black bears evolved in forest ecosystems; as a result, their current distribution is largely influenced by the amount of undisturbed forest cover available to them. A very general population estimate suggests there may be up to 600,000 black bears in North America and more than 380,000 in Canada. Due to their relatively robust numbers, black bears are not a Species at Risk in Canada.

Quick Facts

Weight: 80-150 kg (males) and 45-100 kg (females)

Diet: mostly plants, 15% of diet is meat

Lifespan: of 18-23 years

Status: Stable population


Identifying carnivore tracks | Wildlife safety | Wildlife watching and photography

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