An orphaned grizzly that had been given a new lease on life in July was struck and killed by a vehicle near Stoddart Creek on the morning of Friday, October 11th.
The accident occured about two kilometres north of the Highway 93/95 and Athalmer Road intersection — not far from where a road-killed deer was, conservation officers later learned.
“Very likely, it was there, feeding on the road-killed deer; that’s much more common, as far as wildlife collisions,” said Invermere Conservation Officer Greg Kruger. “Bear collisions are fairly rare; it’s unfortunate this grizzly was struck and killed, but a contributing factor that morning was a very dense fog, so visibility would’ve been low.”
“No one called it in as a vehicle strike,” he added.”I got a phone call from a fellow who works at Kootenay National Park; he came across it and could confirm it was a grizzly bear with an ear tag. It was confirmed it was the young male grizzly, Tika, that was sent up to the Northern Lights Wildlife Society rehabilitation centre last winter from Golden.”
Tika was discovered orphaned and starving in a backyard in Golden last December.
After recuperating at the rehabilitation centre in Smithers, the one and a half-year-old bear was released into the Beaverfoot Range in the Rocky Mountains east of Golden, an area determined to be suitable habitat for a young male grizzly.
Just two and a half weeks ago, a signal from Tika’s radio collar, which it had been fitted with upon release from the rehabilitation centre, indicated the young bear had ventured as far south as Edgewater.
“We had no reports on this bear from the public, no complaints, as it was moving down the Columbia Valley,” said Mr. Kruger. “It wasn’t near the town, but it was within a few kilometres, east in the Rockies.”
“We know they do travel great distances, especially at that age,” he said. “It would be searching for suitable habitat, and trying to establish its own home range, where bears aren’t already — (other grizzlies) would put the run on it or kill it,” said Mr. Kruger. “This probably wa a contributing factor for him moving.”
The accident comes after 4.7 kilometres of wildlife fencing was completed in Kootenay National Park earlier this month — though wildlife fencing would not likely be a solution in the area between Radium Hot Springs and Invermere.
“The best advice would be for motorists to slow down and drive for the conditions,” said Mr. Kruger. “When driving through this part of the valley, motorists should always be thinking about wildlife crossing the road, because it’s very common.”
When the bear was struck, it no longer had the radio collar on, noted Mr. Kruger.
Despite the tragic end, Tika’s release back to the wild had many elements of success, said Northern Lights Wildlife Society owner and manager Angelika Langen.
“There’s good in this too,” she said. “We have information on how far he travelled, and he was in excellent body condition. He was healthy and had a good fat layer. There’s nothing wrong with what he did, and that’s a success from our point of view.”
The GPS signal from Tika’s collar had recently became scrambled as a result from an encounter with an eectrci fence, and “we were ready to go in and retrieve him,” said Ms. Langen. “We would’ve liked to follow him for another couple of years.”