June 7, 2016 5:30 pm
Updated: June 7, 2016 5:42 pm

Grizzly bears sighted in Whistler Olympic Park

These grizzly bears were spotted by a local photographer in the Whistler Olympic Park in May.

These grizzly bears were spotted by a local photographer in the Whistler Olympic Park in May.

Courtesy: Whistler Photo Safaris Ltd

A pair of rare guests that paid a visit to the Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley last week was captured by a local photographer.

Two grizzly bears were spotted in the area on May 29 by Jason Coleman, a lead guide with Whistler Photo Safaris Ltd.

The pictures of the encounter, taken from about 600 meters away, were published on the company’s Facebook page.

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The administration of the Whistler Olympic Park commented on the sighting on their own Facebook page, saying they are “honoured that these beautiful bears paid [them] a visit.”

The park is currently closed to visitors, but there are number of events scheduled to take place in the park in the coming weeks, including Tough Mudder and Whistler Longboard Festival.

The park’s administration has a warning on the park’s website reminding it’s an outdoor mountain venue and as such, wildlife encounters are possible.

“We are privileged to share our venues with all kinds of wildlife, including bears,” the warning reads. “Please help us to keep them wild and safe. Do not feed them or try to pet or pose for a photo with an animal.”

Sgt. Simon Gravel with the Sea to Sky Zone Conservation Officer Service says they have received a few reports of grizzly bears roaming through the area this spring.

Gravel says it’s not uncommon to see grizzlies travel through the area.

“But it’s the first time that I am aware of that they stuck around in the Olympic Park,” he says.

Gravel says although the park is currently closed to the general public, some people still use the area and need to be aware there are not only black bears roaming around, but possibly grizzly bears as well.

“We spend a lot of time up there, making sure people keep a safe distance from the bears, and that they don’t get out of their vehicles to take pictures of the bears,” he said.

However, Gravel says they are not issuing a public warning for the area, because it’s a natural habitat for the grizzlies.

The municipality of Whistler says it’s home to around 50 black bears, and grizzly bears also inhabit backcountry areas.

Tim Hope, the director of Whistler Olympic Park, told Global News the fact that the two grizzly bears paid them a visit is proof that their park management is sustainable and wildlife friendly.

“We are expecting that, just like the Callaghan Valley’s black bears, these bears will move further up soon once the snow melts on the mountains,” says Hope. “This is a great opportunity to encourage people to educate themselves of best practices in locations with bears, both black and grizzly.”

The park says no one should try to approach a bear or make direct eye contact. Instead, back away slowly, preferably in the direction you came, and give the bear space. In most cases, the bear will leave the area.

If the bear is still a distance away, stay away and leave the area or detour around the bear, always ensuring that it has an escape route. Never pass between a mother and her cubs.

Walk, do not run, and keep your eye on the bear so you can see how it will react. By keeping your distance you will help avoiding that the bear gets stressed, acts defensively and asks for more space.

For more tips on how to stay safe around wildlife, go here.

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