A Nova Scotia family on a trip through Alberta last week was shocked at how people reacted to a grizzly bear on the side of the highway.
Mark Sawlor told Global News Saturday he was on the Trans-Canada Highway July 5, 2017 between Banff and Lake Louise when his family spotted a number of vehicles pulled over near a bear by the side of the road.
“We saw their cars pulled over at first and we thought, there must be something going on but we kind of just drove by them, and then we saw the bear and we realized it wasn’t just an elk or something, we’ve seen lots of wildlife already, that this is pretty cool.”
Sawlor said he also pulled over and was going to take some photos of the bear from his vehicle, and ended up spending about 15 minutes watching the bear and the excitement it seemed to cause from passing motorists.
Sawlor described seeing one to two dozen people gathered to watch the grizzly on the other side of a metal fence near the road. He said he saw people getting very close and even taking selfies with the animal.
“People brought their kids and walked up, right to the fence, and brought their kids up to the fence. People turned their back to the bear. All kinds of just craziness.”
His family was one of many who got the free Parks Canada 150 Pass, and Sawlor said officials at the gates to Banff National Park gave extensive instructions on how to navigate any potential wildlife encounters, including bears.
“The bear was amazing, we wanted to see a bear in exactly those conditions, like just on the side the road, behind a fence, in a car, you know not on a trail or something.”
“They (the people) just were not thinking. They felt that that fence would protect them and it clearly wouldn’t.” Sawlor said.
Sawlor told Global News he took the video of the bear because he wanted to make sure his kids would have a way to remember the grizzly bear. He said they stayed inside their vehicle the whole time.
Bear encounters are not uncommon in Alberta. A grizzly bear, known as Bear 148 to Parks Canada officials, most recently made headlines after charging at a man with a baby stroller near Grassi Lakes July 3.
July 2, 2017 a man was reportedly attacked by a grizzly bear in the Water Valley area north of Calgary while out geo-caching.
And recently an unusual white-phase black bear has been spotted near Kananaskis west of Calgary.
On the Alberta Environment and Parks website, the Alberta BearSmart program warns, “ Once a bear gets used to an area that is also frequented by people, the chances of a bear-human encounter increase.”
In a response to Global News earlier this week, Brendan Cox, Public Affairs Officer for Justice and Solicitor General emailed this advice for visitors in back-country areas:
“We advise that people should always be in groups of five of more, carry several cans of bear spray and air horns. When walking or biking, make lots of noise so as not to surprise a bear, and keep dogs on a leash. More info is available at bearsmart.alberta.ca. By being BearSmart, members of the public can greatly reduce the chances that bears will become habituated to humans, thereby reducing the likelihood of dangerous bear behaviour.”