Banff’s infamous ‘Boss’ grizzly bluff charges locals, renewing calls for town fruit tree removal


The Town of Banff is renewing the call for homeowners to replace their fruit trees with something less appealing to wildlife after a grizzly bear — known locally as The Boss — had to be hazed from residents’ backyards, with the big grizzly bluff charging residents in the process.

The huge, adult grizzly bear was spotted feasting on crab apples in backyards last weekend, returning to the area three days in a row. A black bear was also seen in the town eating mountain ash berries in the grounds of a hotel.

The Boss, known officially as Bear 122, weighs upwards of 650 pounds and 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.

WATCH | Notorious grizzly The Boss traverses through his natural habitat:

Photographer Jason Leo Bantle was travelling between Banff and Lake Louise when he stumbled upon fresh tracks on a roadway — they belonged to Bear 122 otherwise known as The Boss.

“You can imagine the smell of an apple pie sitting on someone’s windowsill. These trees are like that for a grizzly bear,” said Michael Hay, manager of environment with the Town of Banff.

Fruit-bearing trees, including crab apple, chokecherry, and mountain ash all grow in Banff and can attract wildlife.

“Fruit trees are a major, major attractant. Our role is to work with residents to persuade them to do the right thing in terms of managing fruit trees to try and prevent bears from coming into town,” Hay said.

Right now, it’s legal to plant and keep fruit trees like crab apples in the town, but recent changes to a bylaw allow the town to remove a tree without the homeowner’s permission, if it attracts bears and becomes a risk to the public.

“The bylaw that passed in August really laid that out in plain terms. The town may come in and have that tree taken down,” said Hay, adding that they have not had to use the bylaw yet.

The town also runs a program to remove and replace fruit trees at no cost, which they are promoting to residents.

A close-up shot of crab apple trees.
After hitting the food jackpot by feasting on a crab apple tree, bears can return for weeks, months and even years, becoming bolder and more dangerous in the process. (Vanessa Blanch/CBC)

That ask has become much more urgent now that the future of one of Banff’s most revered residents has been put at risk from being in such close contact with humans and food sources.

Parks Canada staff say Bear 122 was first spotted on Sept. 23 in a backyard eating crab apples from the ground.

The bear was hazed away from the area, but came back shortly after. Parks Canada say staff removed the crab apple tree right away, with the consent and support of the homeowner. 

The Boss returned over the following two days and had to be hazed away again. After hitting the food jackpot, like a crab apple tree, bears can return for weeks, months and even years, becoming bolder and more dangerous in the process. 

For some bears, that can end in tragedy.

Bear 148 had to be relocated after run-ins with humans in Banff in 2017, and was killed by a trophy hunter in B.C. shortly after being relocated. 

Parks are hoping to avoid a similar fate for The Boss.

In a statement emailed to CBC News, Parks Canada says if Bear 122 persists in the area, Parks Canada may begin an aversive conditioning program to re-instill a fear of humans and an aversion to spending time in the townsite.

“Aversive conditioning involves collaring and tracking the bear 24/7, and using hazing techniques including loud noises and projectiles such as chalk balls and rubber bullets to scare it away from problematic areas,” the statement read. 

“Residents are strongly encouraged to participate in the Town of Banff’s Fruit Tree replacement program, which offers an incentive program to remove fruit trees in Banff and replace them with native, non-fruit bearing trees at no cost to homeowners or businesses.”

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