Boo the bear has awoken from his winter slumber – to the delight of thousands of locals, skiers and social media users.
According to Cat Cowan, the manager of the Grizzly Bear Refuge at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Boo had been awake for about two weeks before he poked his head out for some fresh air.
“You know when you sleep in and you’re awake, but you don’t want to get out of bed yet, but you’re also still not asleep? That’s been Boo,” Cowan says.
“He’s been getting ready, walking around and coming up his tunnel, but it wasn’t until Monday, when I heard a crunch and saw the snowpack had broken that we saw him.”
Boo has been in a state of ‘torpor’ since he went into his Golden-area den on Dec. 5, 2021, which Cowan says many people mistakenly label as ‘hibernation’.
Torpor involves physiological changes related especially to body temperature, metabolism and water balance. Cowan says that when Boo goes to bed for the winter, they can see the healing effect his winter has had, even at the cellular level.
Hibernation is when an animal spends the winter in a state of dormancy.
Cowan says that having Boo at the resort provides an excellent opportunity for education about bears, especially the importance of being aware in the backcountry and to lock up your garbage.
“Boo always gets a great response primarily, and so many people learn about him and think he’s fantastic.”
Boo and his brother, Cari, were found together in the Cariboo Mountains, after their mother was killed on the side of the highway by a poacher, who was eventually fined $9,000.
While Cari did not survive his first winter, Boo is still a local and fan-favourite sight to see at the hill, while also being an important part of research being done on grizzly cub rehabilitation.
And while Boo may be turning 20 this summer, with festivities planned in June to mark the occasion, Cowan says they’re still learning plenty from him, especially around his denning behaviour and what that may mean for future rehabilitation projects.
“We have had a huge learning curve even this year, with opening up his second enclosure and finding a compromise with him on his man-mad den and his natural den.”
Locals and tourists can tour around his enclosure from a safe distance in the summers. A weekend of celebrating Boo that will involve electric fence and human wildlife conflict workshops, Bear Awareness, information about Project Rewild with the Grizzly Bear Foundation and will be held this summer for the big guy’s birthday. The refuge will also be raising money for Project Rewild to help rehabilitate grizzly cubs in B.C.
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