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Published: July 29th 2015
While returning along the Maligne (Mah-LEEN) road back to Jasper, we were delighted to see a mother black bear with her two cubs eating along the right side of the road. There were only a few other stopped cars, always a sign of wildlife sightings in the parks, so we had really close views and opportunities for photos without bothering the trio. At one point, the mother unexpectedly walked across the road even though many more cars had stopped by now and her cubs were still on the original bank to our right. More cars came, halted suddenly and some were even between the mother and her cubs, unknowingly breaking the cardinal rule to never do so.
The sow seemed strangely oblivious to the humans and somehow beckoned her cubs to join her in a way we couldn’t see or hear. They eventually crossed the road as well, between the crowd of cars which blocked the road and all three were soon out of sight. We assumed the show was over. We continued on until about half a mile further when we saw a large male black bear heading down the left side of the road. We turned around to
follow him, also snapping good photos and then decided to continue along with him to see what would happen when he encountered the mother and cubs.
As we drove, we looked ahead and were startled to see the mother frantically climbing a very tall tree! We wondered out loud where her cubs were. As we gazed up the same tree, we were astonished to see the two tiny bears one above the other at the very top! There was so little tree left above the higher cub, it looked like a cartoon and we realized we were witnessing something very unusual. The mother bear finally stopped her ascent around two thirds of the way up and made herself into a living barrier, furtively looking down and behind her at the approaching male with great concern.
When he reached the tree, he very nonchalantly ate in the area without showing any indication he knew they were above him. He then slowly continued on at the same pace he had been moving all along. The mother constantly followed his progress and didn’t change her position. After he wandered up the road about 100 yards, he abruptly turned around and came
back. This time he headed straight for their tree, rooted around its base for a minute, then stood up on his hind legs and pawed at the trunk. He did this for a few seconds, then unable to climb or reach any of the frightened bears above, he chewed at the branches a little, dropped back down and then walked away again. This time he didn’t return. Even when he was well out of sight, the mother bear didn’t move and seemed to fall asleep on her perch. The top baby bear, restlessly moved down to the same level of its sibling. This time the show really did seem to have ended, so we moved on.
We have no idea how long they waited before climbing down from that tree but that mother had smelled him coming from quite a ways and was willing to wait for hours to protect her offspring.
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