Located on top of Kicking Horse Mountain, just outside of Golden, BC, the Grizzly Bear Refuge is much more than a tourist attraction. Dedicated to the preservation of the grizzly species, it serves as an education, conservation and research facility. At the refuge, you will have the opportunity to meet Boo, the centre’s resident orphaned grizzly bear, who acts as an ambassador for the refuge and its efforts.
ABOUT THE REFUGE
Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Refuge is proud to be the largest centre of its kind in the world. Within the refuge, the resident grizzly Boo is free to roam around the abundance of waterfalls, creeks, ponds, forests and hills available. The ample space provided allows Boo to explore different habitats and forage for food. The staff at the refuge are careful to supplement food to Boo as needed, yet create an environment where Boo does not rely on them as a source for food. A very hands-off approach is used to care for Boo, enabling him to develop skills on his own as he would in the wilderness. Visitors will be captivated as they witness Boo in his natural habitat, scavenging, hunting, playing, swimming and sleeping just like a bear in the wild.
THE STORY OF BOO AND THE KICKING HORSE GRIZZLY BEAR REFUGE
Boo’s story will tug at your heartstrings. He and his brother, Cari, were actually born in the wild but faced tragedy in 2002 when their mother was shot and killed by a poacher. At only 5 months old, the grizzly cubs were left orphaned and defenceless. Typically, cubs stay under their mother’s protection for 2-3 years after birth. Grizzly mothers are known to be fiercely protective of their children yet even under such care, a mother will typically lose half of her cubs within the first year due to starvation, disease and predators. Without their mother’s protection at such a young age, Boo and Cari’s chances of survival were rather grim.
Fortunately, the cubs were given a second chance at life when they were discovered in the Cariboo Mountains. They were able to find a new home at the Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Refuge, which was designed and built specifically for them as a humanitarian effort by the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. If left to their own defences, Boo and Cari would not have survived. With the refuge, the resort also saw the opportunity for scientific research to gain extensive insight into the behaviour and life development of the grizzly bear species. Great efforts have been put into ensuring that the refuge closely resembles the wilderness, and a log den was constructed for the cubs to utilize during the harsh winters for hibernation.
Fun fact: from observing the cubs during their hibernation process, it was discovered that bears still engage in limited activity during the winter. Therefore, the term ‘winter dormancy’ is much more accurate to refer to the bears’ winter slumbers.
Sadly, Cari passed away during his first winter dormancy due to uncontrollable circumstances. Yet Boo demonstrated tremendous resilience by overcoming the loss of his mother and brother and now continues to live alone at the refuge. There is no need to pity Boo though- male grizzlies are known to be solitary creatures, so living alone is a natural condition for him. He is content with residing at the refuge, which was made clearly evident back in 2006, when the young Boo escaped twice from the refuge by breaking down a steel door and charging a series of fences. Boo, being the Casanova he is, was spotted in the wild charming female grizzly bears on both occasions. However, Boo voluntarily decided not to remain in the wild, happily making his way back to the comforts of his own home at the refuge once mating season ended.
DISCOVERY GRIZZLY BEARS WILDLIFE TOUR
The refuge offers unique interpretive tours that are great for the whole family. During your visit, you will have the opportunity to learn lots about the magnificent grizzly species and their daily routines. Boo closely resembles a wild bear rather than a zoo bear held in tight captivity, so it’s a one-of-a-kind experience to be able to observe his behaviours up close. As Boo is free to wander wherever he pleases, where Boo goes, the tours follows, so ensure that you come wearing comfortable shoes! A wonderfully authentic experience, each tour is unscripted and unique depending upon Boo’s activity. If you desire a more personalized and hands-on experience, there are also ranger assisted tours available, where guests can help prepare and distribute Boo’s dietary supplements, view his winter quarters and spend time with the ranger, who will be able to answer any questions about Boo.
The refuge makes for a wonderful learning experience for anyone taking a summer vacation to the Kicking Horse area, or nearby Revelstoke, Invermere or Panorama. For those planning on a trip to the refuge while staying in Canmore or Banff, the Discover Grizzly Bears Wildlife Tour is a fantastic and convenient option to visit the famous Boo. The exciting, action-packed tour takes guests through the Kicking Horse Canyon, making stops along the way at Emerald Lake and Takakkaw Falls to enjoy the stunning scenery. Guests will proceed to relax on a gondola ride to Eagle’s Eye restaurant for lunch while basking in the panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains. Last, but certainly not least, guests will get to finish the tour with an unforgettable visit to the Grizzly Bear Refuge to see Boo in his natural habitat.
READY TO MEET BOO THE GRIZZLY?
You can book your Discover Grizzly Bears Wildlife Tour here. Those that book their accommodation through Leavetown get a $50 activity voucher to put towards any of our activities on offer, including the Discover Grizzly Bears Wildlife Tour!
If you’d like any more information on Boo, or are considering a vacation to the Kicking Horse area, we would love to help you. Our Destination Experts are available 7 days a week at 1.877.902.1616.
Ps… for more grizzly bear action, the Leavetown team currently can’t get enough of this incredible live stream from Alaska of grizzlies gorging on salmon. Check it out here!