A black bear was killed in a collision north of Bragg Creek on Highway 22 on Aug. 10, after it was struck by a small car in a construction zone around 6 p.m.
The bear, a sow, left behind two orphaned cubs that were spotted near the roadway calling for their mother after the collision, according to Redwood Meadows Emergency Services fire chief Rob Evans, who tended to the scene.
The driver of the vehicle was unharmed, he added, though the vehicle suffered significant damage.
"We looked after the driver first and then turned our attention the bears," Evan said. "We contacted Fish and Wildlife and stayed on the scene trying to keep the cubs away from the road at least until they arrived.
"They were hanging around on the opposite side of the road as their mother, who was unfortunately dead in the ditch. They were calling for her and it was quite heartbreaking to see."
Emergency crews kept their vehicles parked on either side of the highway to ensure traffic slowed while driving through the area.
Evans says the cubs eventually ran across the road and into the brush after a few hours, and the sow was removed from the ditch by Fish and Wildlife.
According to the fire chief, the cubs appeared to have been weaned by their mother.
"She appeared to have weaned them off because she was totally dry," he said. "So she likely hadn't been nursing for a while, which is a good thing for the cubs."
Evans said the cubs appeared to be about 70 to 80 pounds in size and described them as "healthy looking."
Fish and Wildlife confirmed the cubs are about one-and-a-half years old, weighing in at the same weight that Evans estimated. According to the wildlife authority, the cubs were no longer nursing.
"Bears of this age and size can generally be on their own," reads an email statement from Fish and Wildlife. "No action was taken by Fish and Wildlife enforcement services with the two bears.
"This is an important reminder that roads attract wildlife because they give animals a travel corridor, easy access to food and a source of salt in the winter," the statement continues. "Please remember many species are active at dawn and dusk when visibility is poor and traffic volume is high."
Some other tips include scanning the roadway and ditches ahead for animals, watching for shining eyes or a silhouette of an animal at night, slowing down and being prepared to stop if an animal is near, and watching for wildlife warning signs and slowing down where animals crossing signs are posted.
Bragg Creek Wild, a local advocacy group in the hamlet, has been working to establish Bragg Creek as a Critical Wildlife Corridor – a designation that would allow local stakeholders to raise awareness on steps to reduce animal mortality and human-animal conflict.
Bragg Creek Wild co-founder Renée Delorme said Bragg Creekers were incredibly saddened to hear of the recent collision and the death of the bear.
"This wildlife-vehicle collision has been devastating for the local community," she said in an email. "We all are hoping the cubs can be captured and taken care of until they are ready to fend for themselves."
To prevent future collisions, Evans reminds motorists that it's important to be alert in areas of abundant wildlife, such as Bragg Creek, and obey speed limits. The car that collided with the black bear did so in a construction zone set to 50 kilometres per hour.
"Pay attention for wildlife," Evans said. "Especially where we live, there's deer, there's elk, moose and bears on the road. Just be aware of animals coming out of the treeline – it can happen in the blink of an eye."
Delorme echoed similar sentiments, adding there has been an uptick in residents spotting bears and cubs in Bragg Creek in recent weeks. She said one way to reduce bear-vehicle collisions is to keep bear attractants such as leftover food and garbage securely stored or disposed of in bear-proof bins.