Management in Action

Bears in the mountain national parks


Attractant: Anything with an odour that may attract a bear into an area in search of a potential food source (e.g., human or pet food, garbage, carrion, fruit trees, toiletries, recyclables)

Aversive conditioning: A structured program in which deterrents (e.g., rubber bullets, noisemakers, beanbag rounds) are continually and consistently used on a bear over an identified period of time to modify undesirable behaviour by pairing it with pain or an unpleasant stimulus. See Hazing.

Backcountry: Those parts of the park not accessible by motor vehicle.

Bear jam: A traffic jam caused by people stopping their vehicles to view a bear.

Blue-listed species: (British Columbia) Species and subspecies that are considered sensitive or vulnerable and that could become eligible for the Red List (threatened or endangered) in the foreseeable future. The Blue List also includes species that are generally suspected to be vulnerable, but for which information is too limited to allow designation in another category. (There are different provincial and federal categories for Species at Risk; for federal definitions, see the Species at Risk Act glossary.)

Bluff charge: An interaction between a bear and a human where a bear charges toward the human, but stops short of the human or veers away before making physical contact. The bear’s behaviour is intended to intimidate, but not necessarily harm.

Carrion: The flesh of dead animals.

Conditioned: Bear behaviour defined by one or more of the following: seeks and possibly has obtained non-natural foods, destroys property, displays aggressive, non-defensive behaviour towards humans, or is overly familiar with humans.

Delayed implantation: Grizzly bears mate in the spring. If a female’s egg becomes fertilized, it will travel to the uterus but not become implanted. In the late fall, if the female bear is healthy and has enough fat stored up to nurse cubs during winter denning, the embryo will implant in the uterus lining. If the female is underfed or stressed, her body will simply reabsorb the embryo and she will not become pregnant.

Extirpated species: A species that is locally, regionally or nationally extinct, but exists elsewhere in the wild.

Food-conditioned: A bear that has learned to associate people (or the smell of people), human activities, human-use areas, or food storage receptacles with a food reward.

Frontcountry: Those parts of the park accessible by motor vehicle.

Habitat: The food, water, shelter and space an animal or plant needs to live.

Habituated: Bears that become used to being around people and people places are habituated. They have lost their wariness due to repeated exposure to the sights, sounds and smell of people.

Hard release: A bear behaviour modification technique. A bear that is persisting in a campground or townsite is captured. It is released from a culvert trap in the area where it would become a problem amidst a hail of shouting, cracker shells, bangers and rubber bullets. The intent is to have the bear associate the area with a negative experience that will guide it to avoid the area in the future.

Hazing: A technique where deterrents (e.g., rubber bullets, noisemakers, beanbag rounds) are administered to a bear to immediately move the bear out of an area or discourage undesirable behaviour. It is a one-time action. See Aversive Conditioning.

Home range: The area in which an individual animal normally lives.

Human-bear encounter: An encounter between a bear and a human. This may be a non-aggressive encounter (the bear does not threaten the human, but seems curious, stands up, sniffs the air, climbs a tree, retreats, or simply continues its pre-encounter routine) or an aggressive encounter (the bear growls, huffs, slaps the ground, pops its jaws, or displays other threatening signs).

Human-caused mortality: Death of an animal due to the actions of humans.

Hyperphagia: In the late summer and fall, bears enter a state of intense eating and drinking in order to put on enough fat to sustain them during winter denning. Bears literally eat around the clock, feeding 20-23 hours a day.

Omnivorous: Diet consisting of many types of food, including animals and plants.

Radio telemetry: Radio signals sent from a transmitter attached to an animal collar are intercepted by a receiver with an antenna. Different radio frequencies are used for each collared animal being tracked. This allows researchers to collect data on animal movement.

Restricted access: A management strategy that limits how and when people can access a specific area. It is used most often to reduce the risk of a bear-human encounter and to allow bears to use critical habitat with little human disturbance.

Rub tree: Trees that bears regularly rub and scratch against. Bears use them to communicate their presence, and perhaps social status, to other bears.

Secure habitat: A place where grizzly bears have a low probability of encountering people. In secure habitat, grizzly bears can feed with little human-caused disturbance and maintain their wary behaviour.

Special Concern species: (Federal) A species that may become threatened or endangered because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.

Threatened species: (Alberta) A species that is at risk of becoming endangered. (There are different provincial and federal categories for Species at Risk; for federal definitions, see the Species at Risk Act glossary.)

Wildlife corridor: A route used by wildlife to travel from one patch of habitat to another.

Wildlife Guardians: Parks Canada interpreters who manage bear-related traffic jams and provide roadside bear information.


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