White Grizzly and Cubs Meet a Tragic End

Nakota and 2 cubs fatally struck by vehicles in Canada's Yoho National Park
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2024 8:34 AM CDT

The white grizzly bear and her cubs roaming British Columbia's Yoho National Park were viewed as so special and rare that they had an entire country rooting for them. When Bear 178, nicknamed Nakota, emerged with her cubs this spring, Parks Canada erected fences and implemented a speed reduction and no-stopping zone along the highway near where the family was spotted, per the CBC. Some wildlife photographers even refused to capture images of the beloved bears. As photographer Lee Horbachewski noted, per Outdoors.com, Nakoda had become the "most sought out bear in the Canadian Rockies," putting her "hugely at risk." Indeed, officials now say Nakota's familiarity with people likely resulted in the devastating loss of the bear and her two cubs.

The cubs were struck and killed along the Trans-Canada Highway, Canada's busiest highway, shortly after 5am on Thursday. They were discovered by Parks Canada staff who'd been monitoring the bears after reports of a "fence intrusion," per the CBC. Nakota, who was also on the road, was directed back behind fencing. But that evening, the female, too, was struck by a vehicle. Staff saw the bear run onto the roadway after being startled by a train. She ran away limping and was discovered dead days later. A Parks Canada rep said she'd become habituated to humans due to her frequent visits to the highway, where drivers would often stop to see her, and "it is an unfortunate reality that bears that become habituated to people often have negative outcomes."

In 2022, Nakota was relocated due to the dangers of the highway and train tracks. But she returned this May with what Global News reports was her first set of cubs. "With snow lingering in the high country and the added food stress of feeding her cubs, wildlife specialists believe she returned to familiar and reliable high-value food sources along the road," a parks official tells the CBC. Relocation was considered too risky and "the bears were only spending short periods near the highway." Parks Canada is now urging drivers not to stop for wildlife viewing along the road. As Exposed Wildlife Conservancy co-founder John E Marriott tells Global News, "It's OK to love the wildlife," but we have to "make sure we're not loving them to death." (More grizzly bear stories.)

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