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A glorious photo of The Boss with sun rays shining on his beautiful fur as he stands on the railroad tracks
Free Range American

Meet The Boss: Banff’s Legendary Patriarch Grizzly Bear Who Is Also A Cannibal

He is the father of most cubs in the area, but he also survived being hit by a train

When it comes to Spring traditions, most people think of Groundhog Day. However, things are a little different in Banff. When The Boss leaves his den, that’s how residents know Spring has arrived.

Bear No. 122, also known as The Boss, is the patriarch of Bow Valley bears. He is the head honcho of bears in the area because of his size and distinctive ears. The Boss weighs between 650 and 700 pounds.

Mike Grande, resource management supervisor for Banff National Park, commented on the first bear to leave the den to the Rocky Mountain Outlook, “It was our friend 122, we’re almost certain, given the way bears roll out of their dens, with the big males being first, there’s a real good likelihood that’s who it was.”

But this absolute unit of a grizzly bear is known for more than just his size. He is also known for being the most dominant bear around Banff National Park.

Not convinced?

The 20-year-old bear calls 2,500 square kilometres of land his home. Additionally, DNA results show that The Boss is the father of most cubs in the Bow Valley area. Maury would be proud!

On his journey to become the king of Bow Valley, The Boss had to eat his competition…literally. The Boss received national attention in 2013 after he killed and ate a black bear along the Sundance Canyon trail.

You weren’t expecting that, were you? The year before, another black bear was found dead. The suspect was none other than The Boss. If that wasn’t terrifying enough, he also survived being hit by a train in 2010 near Vermillion Lakes.

If a train can’t stop The Boss, then what can?

Well, The Boss’ closest rival is bear No. 136, also known as Split Lip. As you can guess from the name, this grizzled bear is known for his messed up mouth.

a closeup shot of split lip with his disfigured mouth
The menacing Split Lip showing off his disfigured mouth | Western Wheel

Like The Boss, Split Lip is known for eating his kind. Back in May 2020, Split Lip ate a two-and-a-half-year-old cub. A few years earlier, he had eaten another bear.

While this is disturbing, it’s not uncommon for grizzly bears. Sometimes grizzlies will eat each other to reduce mating competition. In other cases, cannibalism can occur when a grizzly is hungry.

With the breeding season for bears right around the corner, tensions are high in Bow Valley. This is because The Boss and Split Lip have an intense mating rivalry. Vermillion Lakes Road was closed one year over concerns the pair might brawl.

For now, The Boss is focused on finding food. Every Spring, he travels up and down the nearby railroad tracks looking for the carcasses of animals hit by the train.

“Depending on the individual, their diet is largely vegetarian, but at this time of year, they will opportunistically be looking for animals that have died through the course of the winter, either due to harsh conditions or potentially have been struck by vehicles or disease has gotten to them,” commented Grande.

Now that The Boss is out and about, other bears have started leaving their dens too. With this in mind, Parks Canada advises people to educate themselves on bear safety.

The other day, a resident had a close encounter with The Boss near the Bow Valley Parkway west of Banff. In another instance, a resident had a surprise run-in with a small black bear and used his bear spray.

However, most bears aren’t aggressive towards humans unless they are defending something like a carcass or their cubs. Still, it’s essential to know how to protect yourself in the unlikely scenario you find yourself in the path of an aggressive bear.

“Making noise is probably at the top of our list, because most of these bears are habituated to human presence, so they understand what human noise sounds like,” said Grande.

In addition to making noise, you should carry bear spray and stick to official trails during daylight. You should also pay attention to common signs of a bear. This includes scat, tracks, and diggings.

Last but certainly not least, keep your dog on a leash! Dogs are known to piss off bears, especially bears that may already be on edge. If you spot a bear, Parks Canada asks that all sightings be reported to Banff National Park at 403-762-1470.

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