AS A MEDIA MEMBER I was lucky to visit Boo — a rescued 15-year-old male grizzly bear at Golden’s Kicking Horse Mountain — before the general public and while the staff fed him breakfast (a mix of fruit and nuts). It’s a humbling experience to witness these animals up close, something you don’t want to do in the wild.
Boo was rescued along with his brother when their mother was shot by a poacher. Unfortunately, his brother didn’t survive — he had a twisted intestine — but Boo has flourished in the 20-acre refuge on the mountain. It’s the largest enclosed and protected refuge of its kind in the world. Many important discoveries have been made by observing him growing up. It was once believed that cubs needed their mother to learn certain survival skills, like den building, but the staff have been able to observe that Boo was instinctively able to learn many skills without his mother. This knowledge has been key in the rescue and eventual release of many other bear cubs since Boo was taken in.
Boo will never be able to be released into the wild as he is too habituated to humans and would most likely results in him being euthanized.
How to visit Boo
The town of Golden, BC is about a 3-hour drive west of Alberta, not too far from Banff and Jasper National Parks (it would make a great addition to a trip to the Canadian Rockies). Kicking Horse Mountain is the local ski hill and is located pretty much in town. A chairlift is used to access the refuge where staff give guided tours and educate the public about grizzly bears.
There are many options for accommodations from camping to motels to full suites and Golden has an impressive selection of cafes, restaurants, and even a local craft brewery. I personally recommend Eleven22 for eating and the Cedar House Chalets for staying, especially if you have are traveling with family (they have fantastic fully-equipped suites including a hot tub and barbecue). I also highly recommend eating up at the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant at the resort — stunning views and great food.
What to consider
- The refuge is open to the public daily in the summers and visits include a guided tour.
- It costs just under $30 CDN as an adult which includes the lift pass. See full prices here.
- The refuge is big. You’re not guaranteed sightings of Boo, but you can return for free if you don’t see him on your visit.
- It’s up a mountain so it can get cold, even in the middle of summer. Bring layers.
- There are mountain biking trails and a via ferrata at Kicking Horse, so if you’re adventurous you can plan this into your visit.