Vintage Photographs of Bears From Across Alberta

I enjoyed my previous story, Historical Wildlife Photos From Across Alberta, so much that I decided to do a similar one, but with a focus entirely on bears. Bears have always fascinated me and are often misunderstood as being serious trouble for humans. There’s no denying that bears have the potential to be dangerous, but when treated with respect, are often gentle, curious, and incredibly intelligent creatures. I had the pleasure of learning all about Boo the Bear, Golden’s unofficial mascot, for my story Lair of the Grizzly Bear and they’re always a personal favourite to catch on my remote wildlife cameras. This was just a natural progression in my posts about bears.

Pet bear behind Merchants Bank, Vegreville, Alberta, 1905

We’ve come a long way with how we interact with bears in our provincial and national parks and how we live and recreate in bear country. Things that used to be commonplace, such as bear viewing at the local garbage dump, feeding wild bears, or even approaching them within close range for a unique photo opportunity are now highly frowned upon. We have a better understanding of these complex animals and have come to realize that these behaviours are not only exceedingly dangerous for us, but almost always lead to the bear’s untimely death. Unfortunately many of the behaviours depicted in these photos still happen today, despite the best efforts of Park’s personnel and aggressive marketing campaigns aimed at eliminating them.

Tourist feeding a bear, Banff, Alberta, 1908

Enjoy this collection of historical bear photos from across our beautiful province, but please learn from these past mistakes. Keep in mind Banff is not a petting zoo and the bears in Kananaskis Country are not domesticated. If you do see a bear in its natural habitat revel in the encounter and appreciate just being in the presence of this magnificent keystone species. The experience should always end peacefully for both parties, so be sure to keep these tips in mind whenever you’re in bear country.

Andy Good and tame bear, Crowsnest Pass area, 1910-1913
Visitors looking down into bear enclosure at zoo, Banff, Alberta, 1912
Bears at zoo, Banff, Alberta, 1912
Bear outside King Edward Hotel, Banff, Alberta, 1913
Mascot bear for 12th Canadian Mounted Rifles, Canadian Expeditionary Force, Sarcee army camp, Calgary, Alberta, 1915
Motorists photographing bear on road, Alberta, 1915
Bear in the Canadian Rockies, 1920s
Men feeding a bear while Frank Moodie looks on, Banff National Park, Alberta, 1920s
Black bears crossing railway tracks, Jasper, Alberta, 1925
Bear cubs, northern Alberta, 1926-1938
Bears in a tree, northern Alberta, 1926-1938
Black bear ‘Teddy; at Kilmorey Lodge, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, 1930
Bear at Calgary Zoo, Calgary, Alberta, 1931-1937
Tourist looking at bear cub, Jasper National Park, Alberta, 1931
Bear on road, Jasper National Park, Alberta, 1931
Bears at garbage dump, Jasper National Park, Alberta, 1935
Bear on shed roof, relief camp 3, Crooked Creek, Alberta, 1935
Bear beside Rocky Mountain Tours Co. bus, Banff National Park, Alberta, 1950s
Bears at garbage dump, Alberta, 1970s
Fireman with bear cub mascot, Calgary, Alberta, n.d.
Man feeding bear cub, Banff area, Alberta, 1939-1945
Small bear in tree along Banff-Windermere highway. Banff National Park, Alberta, n.d.
Bear looking into tourist’s car on road, Banff, National Park, Alberta, n.d.

All of the above photos are published with permission from the Glenbow Archives. Additional information can be found for each photograph on the Glenbow website by searching the identification number that is printed on each photo. There is also the option to purchase a high resolution copy. Stay tuned for additional posts featuring historical photos from Alberta. We’d love to know what you think in the comment section below.

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About Tyler Dixon 113 Articles
Tyler is originally from Saskatchewan, and yes he cheers for the Roughriders, but don’t hold that against him as Calgary has been his home for the past eight years. He is a teacher working at a wilderness- based treatment program for youth working to overcome addiction. Tyler is also a volunteer with the GOT Parks initiative, which aims at reconnecting Canada’s youth with our national, provincial, and territorial parks. During his time away from work, Tyler enjoys outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and snowboarding, team sports, travelling, photography, spending time with good friends, and being at home with his wife and German Shepherd, Rome.