Parks Canada officials say human contact putting wildlife, people at risk
In this Sept. 25, 2013 photo, a grizzly bear cub rests near a cabin a few miles from the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park in Gardiner, Mont. (Alan Rogers/Casper Star-Tribune via AP, file)
The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, July 2, 2016 5:31PM EDT
BANFF, Alta. -- Tourists are repeatedly warned about getting too close to wildlife they come across in the mountains, but Parks Canada officials say despite the advisories, it's still happening.
One recent incident near Lake Louise, Alta., involved a grizzly bear feeding near the road just inside one of the fence barriers.
Dozens of excited visitors went over to take a look, some standing just steps from the large bear.
Parks officials say at one point, a child reached through the wire toward the bear, an exceedingly dangerous thing to do.
Kevin Van Tighem, a former superintendent at Banff National Park, says the gatherings of tourists that park officials call "bearjams" are filled with "stupid and irresponsible behaviour."
He says people are not only putting themselves at risk, they are creating problems for the animals by potentially building contact with humans that can later cost them their lives.
"Even though you might feel safe because there is a fence there or something, it doesn't change the fact that somebody else might get hurt because of this situation," Van Tighem said.
He said the bear could easily get over the fence if it wanted to.
"The more you increase stressful interactions and stressful situations between bears and humans, there is more risk of an attack happening, if not at that event, then subsequently."
The bear in the fence incident has had her fair share of contact with humans, but Van Tighem said it is especially concerning for her because she is at her prime breeding age.
"This six-year-old female knows how to live around people," Van Tighem said. "I've met her personally in the backcountry of Banff. She's coming into her prime productive years -- she's a very important bear -- it would be terrible to lose this bear because of people's behaviour."
Ideally, Parks Canada officials would like people to slow down but not stop when they spot bears along the road. They say if you do stop, you should stay in your car, keep a respectful distance and make it brief.