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Whistler bears enjoy dinner and dating on ski hills (PHOTOS)

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Jenni Sheppard Jun 29, 2016 2:00 am

The birth of a caramel-coloured bear cub at Whistler this year has renewed interest in the bears that call our world-class ski hills home.

And so, in the very early hours of the morning, Daily Hive ventured out on the trail of the mountain’s black bears – on a Whistler bear tour with guide Theresa Oswald.

Oswald took us all over Whistler and Blackcomb mountains in search of the caramel cub…

…But alas, they say you should never work with animals and the little cub that’s melting our hearts was nowhere to be seen that morning.

Nevertheless, we did capture some gorgeous photos of the black bears that live at Whistler Blackcomb while on our quest.

So we hope you enjoy these shots of Whistler’s black bears – munching on clover, dining on grass seeds and playing hard to get on a bear “date.”

Bear in Whistler (Jenni Sheppard/Daily Hive)

A young black bear enjoys munching on a ski hill on Whistler mountain (Jenni Sheppard/Daily Hive)

The best time to see bears in the wild are in the early hours of the morning, around 6 am, or as dusk falls, around 6 pm.

At Whistler, there are at least 60 bears which move through the area and bear dens located all over the mountain, often in the forest either side of the ski runs.

“We have a number of resident moms that like to raise their young in the ski area,” Arthur DeJong, Mountain Planning and Environmental Resource Manager, told Daily Hive.

“Especially when they’re up higher, as there’s more security and the food supply is quite rich.”

Next time you’re coming down there on your snowboard or mountain bike, take heed; we saw one den only metres from the edge of the run!

Bear in Whistler (Jenni Sheppard/Daily Hive)

A black bear among the spring wildflowers on Whistler mountain (Jenni Sheppard/Daily Hive)

The bears that live on Whistler and Blackcomb love chewing on the clover, flowers and wild berries that carpet the ski hills once the snow melts.

“This region is really like a bread basket for bears,” said De Jong. “They forage the flora, it’s very rich in this area.”

The bears can usually be seen roaming around the mountainside clover patches, constantly moving between mouthfuls.

Sometimes though, fate intervenes.

This bear had discovered a heap of grass seeds thrown over a more barren area of the mountain – and was sitting pretty on a ready made seed stash.

Bear in Whistler (Jenni Sheppard/Daily Hive)

A black bear chewing on grass seeds strewn on the ground on Whistler Mountain (Jenni Sheppard/Daily Hive)

Bear in Whistler (Jenni Sheppard/Daily Hive)

A black bear sitting pretty on a grass seeds stash on Whistler Mountain (Jenni Sheppard/Daily Hive)

And then appeared a completely different beast – or was he?

Bear in Whistler (Jenni Sheppard/Daily Hive)

A brown-coloured black bear crosses the road on Blackcomb mountain (Jenni Sheppard/Daily Hive)

This bear may be a gorgeous golden brown colour, but he’s still a black bear – however science isn’t sure what brings about this colour variation.

Our guide said she believed it may be two things. Firstly, a recessive gene present in both parents. Secondly, the brown fur may fare better in Whistler sunshine than black.

This particular bear wasn’t looking for food though… He was following around a female he hoped to mate with.

Bear in Whistler (Jenni Sheppard/Daily Hive)

The male bear checks out a female on Blackcomb mountain (Jenni Sheppard/Daily Hive)

Like the other bear we’d seen among the clover, this female was munching her way from tuft to tuft…

Bear in Whistler (Jenni Sheppard/Daily Hive)

The female bear ambled through the long grass on Blackcomb mountain (Jenni Sheppard/Daily Hive)

… all the while pursued by a very persistent suitor.

Bear in Whistler (Jenni Sheppard/Daily Hive)

Meanwhile, her male suitor sat captivated (Jenni Sheppard/Daily Hive)

Such was the male bear’s fascination with his love interest, he didn’t seem to mind we were only a few metres away.

Bear in Whistler (Jenni Sheppard/Daily Hive)

Closer than you think – the two bears still courting near the tour truck on Blackcomb mountain (Jenni Sheppard/Daily Hive)

When we eventually managed to drag ourselves away, the male bear had at least managed to make eye contact.

Would it be love at first sight? Here’s hoping things worked out – and there’ll be more cubs along next year.

Bear in Whistler (Jenni Sheppard/Daily Hive)

Love at first sight? (Jenni Sheppard/Daily Hive)

The bears in Whistler are the only population of black bears in BC that has been studied for more than two decades.

Independent researcher Michael Allen and fellow guide Theresa Oswald run three-hour bear tours at the resort from May to September, at 6 am, 6 pm, and sometimes at noon.

For more information about the tour, check out the WhistlerBlackcomb website, or to learn more about the bears of Whistler, head to Michael Allen’s Bear Report blog.


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Jenni Sheppard
Jenni is a former Senior Staff Writer at Daily Hive. Happy Vancouverite. Traveller, snowboarder, foodie, film fan, feminist, geek, cheesemaker, curler.

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