Undercurrent is an investigative series from the award-winning journalists at The Narwhal. In Season 1: Bear 148, host Molly Segal investigates the life and death of a beloved grizzly bear in Alberta's Bow Valley. Was Bear 148 in the wrong? Or were we? Either way, it was the bear that ended up dead.
Trailer: Bear 148
When Bear 148 walked across a parking lot — which she did, often — she could easily end up on the front page of a national newspaper. That's because she lived in Banff, Canada's busiest national park. But when she crossed an invisible border and left the park, she set into motion a series of events that eventually led to her death nearly 500 km from her home.
Bear 148 tells the story of the life, and death, of one bear that captivated a community. A podcast by The Narwhal coming this June.
Episode 1: A perfect neighbour
Bear 148 lived most of her life in and near Banff, Canada's busiest national park. She wasn't afraid of people and she became a local celebrity. By the summer of 2017, wildlife managers around the Bow Valley were just about fed up with Bear 148. The mild-mannered grizzly had had too many encounters with people.
Officials moved Bear 148 far from her home, where she found herself in a new world. There, she would make the fatal mistake of crossing the border into British Columbia.
Episode 2: Outcry
Millions of people visit Banff National Park every year. It was a part of Bear 148’s reality that during her six years of life she’d need to become accustomed to humans and their cars and cameras.
In the summer of 2017, Bear 148 followed the valley’s ripe buffalo berries right into the town of Canmore, about 20 kilometres outside of the park. When she crossed that park boundary, it changed everything.
Episode 3: Human footprint
The death of Bear 148 raises fresh questions about an old problem: why can’t bears and people peacefully exist in large national parks? Amid the news and disappointment and anger about Bear 148’s death, rumours and suspicion have taken root. Conspiracy theories abound about who made the final call to relocate the grizzly and why. But in reality, the choices of individuals to walk their dogs off-leash in bear territory, or to ignore park closures also played a role in the events that led up to her death.
Episode 4: Invisible borders
People have been mauled and killed by grizzly bears in the Bow Valley. It’s something most of us don’t have to think about. But for wildlife managers in parks with bears, the worst-case-scenario is never far from mind.
At what point does a bear that's used to people become dangerous? Do we wait until human-wildlife interactions become deadly before we intervene? Or is it reasonable to remove a peaceful bear from their habitat when the faintest warning bells begin to sound?
Episode 5: Why did the grizzly cross the road?
Grizzly bears are expected to navigate around all sorts of human obstacles: train tracks, roads, fences, even towns. When they don’t, they’re considered a nuisance — to some, at least.
Actively trying to understand how grizzlies move from one place to another can help minimize conflict between people and bears.
Important Podcast Everyone Should Listen To
The care with which the Narwhal told the story of Bear 148 and her consistent struggles with her own environment and the environment humans created is so well told. More podcasts like this would only have a positive effect on conservation efforts.
Thank you so much for that podcast. Co-existence with wildlife is fundamental to conserving our native wildlife and their habitat, unfortunately is neglected because the human dimension is too difficult to change behaviours and ideas surrounding co-existence. This podcast was enlightening and really well-done. Thank you for bringing awareness to this issue!
Bring on more conservational podcasts!
Amazing and educational. Hoping the Narwhal and Y2Y makes more podcasts about conservation to spread awareness across Canada about human and animal conflict.