The Alberta government says it shares the public’s concern for Bear 148 amid a petition launched to “save” the six-year-old grizzly from being euthanized—the likely next step should she charge another person.
Started by Banff resident Bree Todd, the petition has garnered over 3,850 signatures in six days. It’s meant to “serve as a message to the various government agencies involved letting them know how many of us want to see Bear 148 left alone.”
“We know of so many people that have had so many positive encounters with Bear 148 and understand how important she is to Banff National Park and Alberta,” it reads. “She belongs here and on our landscape, the only home she knows and should not be executed for simply being a bear. She is surrounded by millions of people yearly and does a pretty good job of avoiding them.
“We are a group of people willing to put our names down in defence of wildlife and tell our government it needs to stand up to its commitment of conservation over euthanasia or relocation.”
Watch below from May 15: Naturalist and former superintendent at Banff National Park Kevin Van Tighem discusses why Grizzly Bear 148 seems to have no fear of humans.
But the provincial government says euthanasia is a last resort and Parks Canada says it’s already doing what the petition is asking.
“The Alberta government will only ever euthanize a bear as a last measure, when the bear has become habituated and dangerous to public safety,” Environment and Parks spokesperson Brent Wittmeier said in an email to Global News.
Wittmeier said provincial staff members are continuing to monitor the bear in partnership with Parks Canada, as well as trying to increase public literacy around safety using the BearSmart campaign.
The province says it has used a successful balanced approach to managing grizzlies as a threatened species since 2010. Twenty-seven have been relocated in the last seven years; only one has been euthanized between Kananaskis and Cochrane.
Bear 148 spends up to 95 per cent of her time within Banff National Park, but Parks Canada says her home range extends into Canmore as well as in and around the Bow Valley. She made headlines earlier this year trying to join a Banff high school rugby practice, after she followed a woman kick-sledding with two dogs, and then when hikers on Mount Norquay released their dog near her.
Watch below from May 12: Coach describes ‘moment of panic’ as grizzly bear joins Banff high school rugby practice
The most recent incident — charging a man pushing a baby in a stroller while walking his dog — happened on provincial land on July 3 after she left the national park. Alberta provincial policy dictates if that were to happen again, the bear would be put down.
“That’s in line with our grizzly bear response guidelines,” provincial carnivore specialist with Alberta Environment and Parks’ Fish and Wildlife policy branch Paul Frame previously told Global News. “Grizzly bears are a threatened species in Alberta so we want to keep them on the landscape, but public safety is the number 1 priority.”
The government said Albertans can do their part to save grizzlies by carrying bear spray and air horns, keeping dogs on a leash and staying in groups of five or more people when in bear territory.
Parks Canada provided the following tips for visitors to keep themselves and wildlife safe:
- Never feed wildlife
- Learn about the wildlife in the park you are visiting
- Keep your dog on a leash at all times, or leave your pets at home
- Hike during the day
- Make noise and travel in groups
- Stay at least 30 metres away from large animals and 100 metres away from bears – never approach any wildlife
- Carry bear spray when camping or hiking and know how to use it
- Keep a clean campsite – safely seal and store all wildlife attractants such as food, garbage, dishes and toiletries
- Do not burn unwanted food or garbage. Put it in the wildlife-proof bins where it belongs
- Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings (look for fresh wildlife signs)
- Stay on designated trails and respect area closures
- Check in with Parks Canada staff on site for safety tips and up-to-date advisories