WWF-Canada Blog:

The Grouse Mountain Grizzlies

By Marieke L. van der Velden, Volunteer, Grouse Mountain Refuge for Endangered Wildlife

This coming year will mark twelve years on the mountain for Grinder and Coola.  They arrived as 8-month-old cubs in 2001, each under different circumstances. A truck on a highway near Bella Coola tragically hit Coola’s mum. A healthy female bear in her prime, she had come out of her den that year with three newborn cubs. Coola was the only one conservation officers were able to rescue.

Marieke bears 1 first snowfall

Coola, cooling down in some fresh snow. 

What happened to Grinder’s mum, nobody is quite sure. Grinder was found as a five-month old cub, wandering a logging road near Invermere. He was stumbling along, underweight, dehydrated and weak, when forestry workers spotted him. After ensuring that the mother wasn’t anywhere nearby, they took him straight to a nearby veterinary office and he was immediately put on an IV drip.

With no rehabilitation plan in place for grizzly bears at that time, most orphaned and found grizzly cubs would have been destroyed. This pair escaped that fate. Coola and Grinder will never be able to be released back into the wild, but observing them has brought a great insight into grizzly bear behavior and what could be done for future orphaned cubs.

Marieke bears 2 coola

A lazy summer day for Coola.

The 5.5 acre habitat provides the bears with space to roam, ponds to swim in and trees to sleep amongst. Although it contains plentiful berry bushes and other food sources, it doesn’t quite fulfill the needs of two fully grown grizzly bears. The wildlife rangers – and volunteers like myself – supplement their diet with apples, carrots, and the occasional salmon. As a volunteer, my duties also include informing visitors, tourists and locals alike, about grizzly bears in general, Coola and Grinder specifically, and what they have taught us.

Marieke bears 3 wrestling

If you can’t wait until spring to see Coola and Grinder when they come out of hibernation, log onto the Grouse Mountain website to watch a live feed of the infrared webcam in their den. Although they are in hibernation, grizzly bears actually get up an average of once a day for a sleepwalk of sorts, stretching muscles and staying limber. If you are lucky, you will catch a few moments of lazy activity  – well worth waiting for!

  • Hi Marieke,
    Great write up! And the photos are beautiful too! Are they your photos? Would I be able to use them on my own blog if I acknowledge the source?
    Shelley Hrdlitschka, (also a volunteer at Grouse Wildlife refuge)

  • Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it. Look advanced to far added agreeable from you! By the way, how could we communicate?

  • Marieke

    Thanks Jess! Yes, that is one of the reasons they come out of hibernation with their muscles in good shape. During hibernation, as they sleep they also do isometric muscle contraction, which keeps their muscles active.

  • Great story Marieke! Do you know if the daily sleepwalking activity is what prevents the bears’ muscles from degenerating during hibernation? I’ve always wondered about this..