Rare white grizzly bear and her two cubs killed hours apart by cars in Canadian park

A rare white grizzly died after being struck by a vehicle on the Trans-Canada Highway, about 12 hours after two of its bear cubs died after being hit by a car on the same roadway, Parks Canada officials said Tuesday.

Park officials received a report that two cubs had been hit and killed early Thursday morning. In the evening of the same day, the mother of the cubs – known as Grizzly Bear 178 – was grazing in a ditch in Yoho National Park. Officials repairing a wildlife fence nearby said they spotted her.

The train passed the ditch, and as the metal wheels screeched, workers “saw how scared she really was,” Saundi Stevens, a wildlife management specialist, said at a news conference. The bear ran out of the ditch onto the road and “right in front of two vehicles on the highway,” Stevens said.

Stevens said one of the vehicles was able to swerve, but the other vehicle struck the bear. The services stopped traffic and the animal ran helplessly into the forest.

A rare white grizzly bear with two cubs. All three bears died in two separate car crashes in Canada’s Yoho National Park.

Parks Canada

“There were no other visible injuries other than a limp,” Stevens said. “We were really optimistic that she might be able to recover from the collision.”

GB 178 often slipped through the fence and wandered along the side of the road, possibly looking for food, Stevens said. Since 2022, wildlife specialists have spent a lot of time trying to deter the bear from entering the roadside, but GB 178 was particularly adept at identifying gaps in the fence and getting through.

Relocating the mother bear and her cubs “wasn’t a consideration,” Steven said, because they weren’t on the roadside for a long time and moving them was riskier.

Twenty-four hours after GB 178 was struck by the vehicle, wildlife specialists received a fatality signal from the bear’s GPS tracking device. Park authorities confirmed the bear’s death on Saturday. Stevens said the team was “devastated” by the loss of her and her two cubs in such a short space of time.

The team “was very committed and really tried to prevent this from happening,” Stevens said, imploring drivers to obey speed limits and exercise caution.

GB 178 climbs a wildlife protection fence in a Canadian park.

Parks Canada

Stevens also addressed rumors on social media that GB 178 returned to the highway Thursday evening to mourn her cub before she was killed. Bears often eat their dead cubs, and GB 178 showed no signs of distress after killing two cubs, Stevens added.

“She showed no signs of distress and was observed foraging on the side of the road for dandelions, which was typical behavior for her,” Stevens said.

Parks Canada estimates there are about 90 grizzly bears in Banff National Park in Alberta and Yoho and Kootenay National Parks in British Columbia. Although the exact number of bears varies from year to year, the population is considered stable. From 2019 to date, 13 grizzly bears have been killed in parks, including four in the first half of 2024 – the most ever.