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The Boss is awake. Albertans rushing to catch a glimpse are urged to keep their distance

Now that Banff’s infamous grizzly “The Boss” has emerged from hibernation, Albertans are flocking to the mountains to catch a glimpse — and some action shots — of his adventures.

The Boss, officially known as Bear No. 122, has already been spotted dozens of times this spring. Chances are you’ve already seen recent photos and videos of him floating around social media.

This is garnering mixed reactions online, and it has bear safety experts cautioning people to keep their distance.

Weighing upward of 650 pounds (295 kilograms), The Boss is the most dominant grizzly bear in and around Banff National Park. He’s eaten a black bear. He even once brushed off being struck by a train.

A grizzly standing on train tracks
The Boss once shrugged off being struck by a train and still uses the railways for travel and foraging. Tasha Barnett said she watched him listen for trains, then ate grains that had fallen on the tracks. (Tasha Barnett)

After two years of searching, Tasha Barnett of Bearberry, Alta., finally saw him earlier this week on railway tracks — eating grain that had fallen from a train.

“I don’t think I’ve seen a better looking bear, and I have seen a few bears. It was just an incredible, sobering feeling to see him just doing his thing,” said Barnett, who had driven two hours in hopes of spotting him.

But how did she know it was The Boss and not just any other grizzly bear? There are some telltale signs, she said: His massive size, a missing chunk of his right ear and his shorter snout.

“There’s not a lot of bears that look like him.”

WATCH | ‘The Boss’ spotted hanging out near train tracks: 

Infamous Banff grizzly ‘The Boss’ wakes up

8 hours ago

Duration 0:32

The grizzly bear known as “The Boss,” or Bear No. 122, was reportedly seen out and about in Banff National Park.

Barnett said she was one of about a dozen people parked along the side of the road with their cameras and big lenses, trying to get a good shot.

“The more you see on social media, the more it entices people to want to get out there and have their opportunity because he is a big deal,” she said.

Keep your distance, says bear safety expert

Canadian Bear Safety Authority founder John Clarke was an Alberta Fish and Wildlife officer for 35 years, specializing in human-wildlife conflict and bear maulings.

While he didn’t work in the Banff area, he’s well aware of The Boss, who has become somewhat of a celebrity over the years.

He said that just by existing, The Boss is unknowingly raising awareness about the beauty of Alberta’s threatened grizzly bear population.

But with the recent influx of people rushing to Bear No. 122’s usual spots, Clarke said his heart goes out to the grizzly.

“What I worry about is that one day, somebody’s going to get too close and he’s just not going to agree with that space and he might take a run at somebody — and we don’t want that,” said Clarke.

Last year, a grizzly was killed after attacking and killing two people in Banff National Park.

A bear sitting on snow
Big males like The Boss typically emerge from hibernation first in the spring, before other grizzlies. (Tasha Barnett)

For the safety of themselves and the bear, Clarke said it’s critical that people remain a minimum of 100 metres away from any wildlife.

“Maybe the day before, he got mad at some people because they came too close and they pushed his buttons and he’s getting more mad. And then today, he bumps into more people. Now he’s even more mad because he remembers what happened yesterday.”

Clarke has also seen the comments of people pushing back against those searching for The Boss, saying there’s enough content available online and they should leave the bear alone.

“The general public is watching out for him and other wildlife,” he said.

The face of a large grizzly bear is seen close up.
Jason Bantle, who snapped this photo of The Boss in 2022, suspects the large grizzly was digging for ground squirrels under stumps and logs. (Jason Leo Bantle)

And while Clarke said The Boss is probably habituated to people now, the public needs to remember that bears are apex predators.

“We all have to stick together and protect the bear and protect the people and step forward when you see somebody doing something wrong.”

Parks Canada bylaws

Clarke said he hopes Parks Canada creates a bylaw to ensure people maintain their distance from bears and other wildlife.

He also said anyone heading to bear country should take a safety course from a credible source.

A close up photo of a grizzly bear, with his snout covered in snow.
Photographer Jason Bantle captured this photo of the notorious Bear No. 122 in 2022. Bantle uses long lenses for safety purposes, and ensures he’s near his vehicle should he need to make a quick exit. (Jason Leo Bantle)

As for Barnett, she said Parks Canada wardens were monitoring the area on the day she saw The Boss, making sure people were staying inside their vehicles.

“Because he’s been in this spot for a while, they had pylons out so [people] aren’t stopping on the closer side of the road,” said Barnett.

In a statement to CBC News, a Parks Canada spokesperson said it is illegal to feed, entice or disturb any wildlife in a national park under the Canada National Parks Act.

Violators could face fines up to $25,000.

The agency also encourages people to make noise, stay in big crowds, carry bear spray, watch for fresh bear signs, keep dogs on a leash, stay on official trails and immediately leave the area and report to park staff if you come across a large dead animal.

“To protect this special space, we must give wildlife the space they need to survive and thrive.”

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