Grouse Mountain’s resident Grizzly bears Grinder and Coola are snoozing through a beary big occasion – this month marks their 20th birthdays.
It’s now been almost two decades since the bears were rescued when they were orphaned in the wild as cubs and brought to the Grouse Mountain Refuge For Endangered Wildlife, where they’re still living their best lives today.
In a celebratory blog post, Devin Manky, Grouse Mountain’s wildlife manager for the past 15 years, wrote that the exact day of birth of both the bears was unknown, but it was for sure sometime in January.
“All young grizzly bear cubs are born inside the den in the early winter months,” he said.
“Female Grizzlies will give birth to one to three cubs inside the den as a protective measure to allow the young bears a chance to nurse and grow before heading out into the world. And, therefore, sometime in January 2001, both Grinder and Coola were born.
“This year marks their 20th birthday – or should we say ... bearthday? Have a great 20th, boys!”
Tiny cubs get rescued
The cubs were rescued separately in the spring of 2001 and later brought to the mountaintop refuge on Sep. 5.
“Coola was found near the town of Bella Coola in the B.C. Coast (June 29),” said Manky. “Bella sounded a bit too feminine for a male bear, so he was dubbed Coola. He was found next to his mother, who had unfortunately been struck and killed by a large vehicle.”
Manky said conservation officers that were called to the scene rescued Coola and brought him to a local veterinarian's office, where he was found to be in great shape.
Earlier that month, on June 5, Grinder was found near Invermere, B.C., on a service road by forestry workers – but he wasn’t looking so good.
“They encountered an emaciated, dehydrated young cub who was very weak,” said Manky.
“They scooped him up in their jackets and brought him into a veterinarian's office in town where he was rehydrated and was soon gaining weight like crazy. We never did find out what happened to his mother.”
Cubs get a new home at Grouse Mountain
Back then, there were no grizzly bear rehabilitation and release programs in B.C. and orphaned cubs were often euthanized humanely, as they can't survive the wild without their mothers, explained Manky. Grouse Mountain heard about the cubs and decided to intervene and create a natural mountain habitat in North Vancouver for them, with the goal of learning more about grizzly cubs to develop a rehabilitation and release protocol.
“Grouse Mountain offered them a 5.5-acre natural habitat and a second chance at life,” said Manky.
“On the flip side, Grinder and Coola offered us a chance to study young grizzly bear cubs and figure out what they know instinctually and what is learned behavior from their mothers. This important information was gathered as they grew up here, and we hope to use it to help future orphaned bear cubs.”
Manky said the middle-aged bears were “living a pretty good life season to season.” They're now very big boys, with Coola weighing in at 474 kilograms (1,045 pounds) and Grinder 401 kg (885 pounds) before heading into their winter slumber. When they're not in hibernation, the furry friends fill their days by swimming in the habitat's ponds, sleeping in the forest, and roaming the fields.
The duo continues to be extremely popular with mountain visitors, with plenty of photos of them flooding social media year after year. They even have a children's book written about them.
The bears will remain in winter dormancy in their hibernation den for the next few months. Manky anticipates they’ll wake up sometime in April.
“We'll start our 2021 summer season – maybe with a 20th bearthday cake!?,” he suggested.
Until then, you can watch the bears for daily movements that help keep their muscles and bones healthy on the Bear Den Camera.
If you want to see more cute photos of Grinder and Coola, check out Grouse Mountain's Instagram.