Campers and residents of Waterton were treated to a rare sight Monday, after a young black bear was chased from the town by an RCMP officer clad in his red serge.
Damian Gillis said he and his family were relaxing in their campsite at the Townsite Campground at about 5 p.m. when they heard a commotion and passersby talking about a bear in town. When they followed the group of people gathering on the street, they saw the beginnings of an exciting bear chase.
“There was quite a commotion with the Parks [Canada] officials and the RCMP there and they had a bear up a tree in behind one of the houses,” Gillis told Global News.
He said there were about four Parks Canada officials as well as the RCMP officer, who was dressed in his traditional red serge — making the moment even more memorable. They were trying to haze the bear out of town.
Gillis said he ran back to get his camera, knowing he had to capture the moment the bear came out of the tree.
“You never see a police officer in red serge with a black bear in the background,” he said.
“Sort of the old image of the police officer going through the wilderness in his red serge uniform and there’s a wild bear in the background.”
WATCH: A camper at the Waterton Townsite campground captured video of a young black bear being chased from town by an RCMP officer clad in his red serge. Quinn Campbell reports
The RCMP officer involved in the chase said there were hundreds of spectators crowded around as he and the Parks Canada staff tried to direct the bear out of town. He agrees the red uniform added to the allure.
“A lot of tourists,” Sgt. Clayton Wilbern said. “They were getting very excited, they were like, ‘Oh wow, I came to Waterton to see a Mountie and a bear and I’ve got both!'”
“This was the closest I’ve ever been, and this was just a baby bear, so it was pretty cool.”
Hazing bears a teaching technique
Hazing bears is a way of teaching bears they can’t come into towns, according to Parks Canada official Dennis Madsen. He said staff will use several techniques like making loud noises, clapping hands, using noisemakers and chalkball guns to shoo them.
“If you put a lot of pressure on a bear it’ll just run up in a tree and hide and feel safe up there and then it won’t go anywhere,” Madsen said.
The young bear was likely recently weaned from its mother, Madsen said, and has been spotted around the town a few times this year.
Madsen said it’s common to see Mounties in Waterton dressed in their red serge chatting with visitors — but he admitted it’s very rare to see one chasing a bear through town.
Gillis said Waterton Lakes National Park is his family’s favourite park and this isn’t the family’s first encounter with a bear in the area. Last year, his 13-year-old daughter came face-to-face with a black bear on a hiking trail near the campground.
Parks Canada is using the Mountie bear chase to remind people to keep their distance from wildlife while in national parks and to avoid feeding any wild animals that may be looking for an easy bite to eat.