Jeanie 1990 - 2011
Whistler's beloved bear-matriarch killed as a result of preventable conflict with people
Jeanie was a Whistler icon. But the 20-something black bear with a swath of white fur across her chest, and eyes that seemed to be lined with shadow was unfazed by her fame. She did her best to tolerate the town-folk who unofficially adopted her. She was photographed by tourists, gawked at from chairlifts, edged off trails by mountain bikers and awakened by heavy equipment. She ventured into Whistler Village occasionally - when she needed food for herself and her cubs and couldn't get enough in the mountains. But for the most part, Jeanie ignored people and the disturbances they caused. She carried on as she always had, protecting her offspring , searching for food, preparing for the upcoming season, and snoozing.
However, what Jeanie couldn't ignore is that as she aged, she lost her status in the bear hierarchy, losing some of her physical strength, and being forced from the territory she used to feed in. She was a strong bear - a true survivor and devoted mother-but in the end, the challenges she faced were tougher than ever.
Jeanie emerged from hibernation in the spring of 2011 with two adorable black cubs in tow. It was her seventh litter, and Whistlerites were thrilled to learn of the twins' birth.
However, tragedy struck the family early on. Bear researcher Michael Allen last reported seeing Jeanie with both cubs on May 24th. Two days later, an agitated Jeanie was observed at a local bike race by Get Bear Smart's Sylvia Dolson. One of her cubs was up a hemlock tree; the other was nowhere to be seen. Researchers speculate the missing cub may have been killed by another bear, but coyotes could also be to blame. No one knows for sure what happened.
Throughout the summer, Jeanie and her remaining cub were seen regularly on the ski runs at Whistler Mountain, especially around the base of the Garbonzo chairlift. The young bear often tested Mom's patience by jumping on her back, weaving between her legs and rolling in the grass. But Jeanie's patience was infinite, even though the cub was a little daredevil, climbing not only trees but the chairlift tower itself. She was even photographed perched high upon a Whistler Village Gondola tower.
During July and August, Mother and daughter feasted on ants and other insects in fallen trees, and berries wherever possible. However, it was a poor berry crop, and the pair ventured into a town several times. Once, Jeanie was seen trying to get into the garbage room at the Squamish Lillooet Cultural Centre. She and her cub made frequent appearances at the Whistler Golf Course. The "whack" of a golf club would sometimes send the cub scampering up a tree.
Jeanie suffered harassment that summer. Coyotes were seen running at her, snapping relentlessly. She was bullied out of the best feeding areas by other bears. Her left lower canine broke off and her weight appeared to be far below the hefty 300 pounds she usually ends the summer at.
Each time she chose to seek food in the Village, she put herself at risk, but the more difficulty she had on the mountain, the more often she chose this "easy" way. At Jeanie's age, relocation would have been something too traumatic for her (and especially her cub) to bear.
Whistlerites adored Jeanie. They've been reading about her, observing her and eagerly awaiting her emergence from hibernation since she was first identified in the early nineties. But in October of 2011, Jeanie's life came to an abrubt end after conservation officers determined her long and increasing history of conflict made her a threat to public safety. Whether or not her behaviour was a threat to human safety is debatable. While her behaviour was bold, she was not aggressive. Yes, she was in areas where bears shouldn't be. She accessed garbage and food at restaurants inside and on the periphery of her home range. In almost all cases, doors were left open and she walked right in; often with her daughter in tow. These establishments were never fined for their careless and unlawful behaviour. But Jeanie did suffer the consequences. And Jeanette lost her mother.
Marissa used to be known as the bear who limped.
Exactly how she hurt herself is a mystery, but for several months she dragged her lame front right leg along beneath her without putting any weight on it.
Injuries are not uncommon among bears-hers could have occurred during a tussle with another bear, she could have fallen from a tree or simply tripped while walking along a rocky slope.
But life for a black bear in the mountains is all about survival, and the injury didn't stop Marissa from doing what her body needed to do: eat. Fall is berry season, a time when the huckleberries and blueberries growing mid-mountain and above are at their best, and bears need to bulk up for the winter.
Lips flopping, rhythmically gulping, Marissa can't get enough of the juicy fruits. Her eyes search the bushes for more blue and purple berries before she's even swallowed her first bite. She consumes an entire bush full of berries in less than a minute, using her mouth like a vacuum, and moves to the next bush. Chewing is a waste of time; she swallows the berries whole. Marissa knows that if she doesn't gain enough weight in the fall, it's unlikely she'll give birth to any cubs this year. But she's a conscientious eater. Marissa only plucks the sweetest, juiciest berries. If they aren't ripe, she'll leave them behind, and return to check on the 'crop' later that week.
Not only is she an excellent fruit harvester, Marissa is also a highly efficient farmer. Thousands of undigested berry seeds in her scat are spread throughout her territory, creating new berry bushes for upcoming generations.
Marissa no longer limps; researchers now identify this 20 year old matriarch by her distinctly feminine facial features and the small white blaze on her chest. While she and her cubs have been known to feed on the greens at the Chateau Whistler gold course, Marissa generally stays away from people. She is a regal, aloof, shy, beautiful bear, with a tough streak humans can never quite know the depth of.
Slip was one of those bears you couldn't help but root for.
He meant no harm, but like any teenage boy, he always seemed to find trouble, and wherever he went, he usually left a mess. Originally named Max when he was born on Blackcomb Mountain in 2003, Slip, a bear who was being studied by researchers, acquired his nickname after slipping out of his radio collar three times.
Slip tagged along with his mother Marissa for about a year before expanding his home range. This is natural behaviour for a young male bear, but Slip soon found himself in some unnatural places and learned some very unnatural things. When he was in town, he figured out how to access pedestrian waste bins. When his paws were still small, he managed to squeeze them into the supposedly bear-proof latch and open the lid. Soon, his paws grew too big to fit into the handle, but Slip didn't give up. He'd test every bin he passed to see if the back door was locked-an easy score if it wasn't-or if the bin looked tippable. (If the base of the bin isn't buried in the ground, the whole thing can be quite easy for a hungry bear to tip over and smash open).
Slip was a social fellow. He was a member of what researchers called The Fitz Creek Gang, a group of five unrelated male and female bears, all around the same age, who would hang out on the ski hill together, playing with and pulling down snow fencing and signs. They also enjoyed a good frolic in the snow. Three 'gang' members were spotted wrestling and sliding together down a patch of snow at Blackcomb Base II one spring. Although they never ventured into town together, the Fitz Creek Gang members were all spotted individually prowling for human food in the Village.
Slip was a clever bear; an expert at getting what he wanted. One hot summer day when he needed to cool off, he made his way into a hotel pool for a refreshing dip. And once he walked into the loading bay at the Westin Hotel, climbed some stairs, walked about 50 meters down a hallway and entered the hotel garbage compactor looking for food.
Conservation Officers, Bylaw Officers and RCMP repeatedly used non-lethal aversion conditioning techniques Slip was hazed 39 times in the fall of 2005 to deter him from populated areas. The following year, the Bear Aversion Research Team (BART) conducted an intense aversive conditioning program on him; for consecutive days, Slip was monitored day and night, hit with rubber bullets and moved out whenever he tried to access the Village. He was persistent and clever in his ways of getting what he wanted, but he never harmed a soul.
By the following spring there was speculation that Slip may have turned over a new leaf; he hadn't been in trouble in town since reappearing from his den. However, spring is when bears look for mates, and that's likey what he was preoccupied with in his last months.
Slip never got the chance to prove whether he'd really been 'reformed.' The endearing thug was shot by a hunter in the Soo Valley in May, 2007, when he was just four years old.