Bear 72 and her cubs near Lake Louise in July 2012. Officials in the mountain parks are trying to keep bears and other wildlife from getting too friendly with humans.
Alex P. Taylor/Parks Canada / Herald archives
Why did the bear cross the road?None of your business, just leave the bear alone.As the summer approaches, so does tourist season in Banff National Park, which means more people will be interacting with the park’s wildlife. As elk are entering calving season, Parks Canada is reminding visitors to keep their distance from the wildlife.Kim Titchener, president of Bear Safety and More, hopes people will heed the warnings and closures posted by Parks Canada meant to keep tourists and wildlife safe. She said people getting too close to wildlife for photos can cause animals, like bears, to lose their wildness. They become more comfortable entering towns and campsites in search of food, which can result in a greater number of negative human-wildlife interactions.“Doesn’t a wild animal deserve to have space and to stay wild?” asked Titchener. “These animals have very few places to live without human interaction and giving that animal space is important.”Elk calving season typically takes place until the end of June. Female elk become protective of their babies which makes them increasingly dangerous.
A group of tourists jockey for position in front of an elk on Spray Avenue in Banff in September 2015.
University of Alberta professor of biological sciences Colleen Cassady St. Clair said she has reviewed instances where people were badly injured following a female elk charge.“People don’t always intend to cause these problems, but by being too close or being in an area that is closed, you make that likelihood a lot higher,” said St. Clair. “You can love wildlife, but because you love wildlife you have to discipline yourself not to harm wildlife in this inadvertent way that’s so well documented … You have to let your rational brain overcome your emotional brain.”However, the risks to themselves and wildlife aren’t deterring people.Titchener said people feel entitled to approach wildlife for pictures because they often spend thousands of dollars on their trips to visit Canada’s national parks. Visitors might believe they deserve wildlife encounter after wildlife encounter.“Recently, we’ve seen this culture of people wanting to get these photos and videos to put them on social media. They aren’t thinking about the implications that has on the animal and their own safety,” she said.“I was driving yesterday and I pulled over because I saw a bunch of tourists walking up to a group of female elk. So I said, ‘You know, they’re pregnant and might be giving birth soon so when you see elk please remember to give them three bus lengths of space.’“We need to keep making sure people know.”Parks Canada has a list of warnings and closures on its website that outlines the no-go areas of the park and other important announcements. On Friday, Parks rolled out a 15-kilometre “no-stopping zone” along Highway 93 South between Radium Hot Pools and Settler’s Road. They have closed all restrooms along the stretch and will be enforcing the zone with the RCMP.Bears are feeding heavily on the spring vegetation along this section of the highway, so Parks Canada said it’s important the hungry bears are given space to feed.Parks Canada also closed the Olivia Lake day-use area and Cobb Lake Trail due to increased bear activity.Parks Canada has plenty of information online about how to prevent and react to interactions with bears, cougars and elk. Any wildlife incident can be reported to the Resource Conservation office at firstname.lastname@example.orgOn Twitter: @BabychStephanie