PHOTOS: Concerns raised as people crowd rare white grizzly in Banff and Yoho parks

A rare white grizzly is shown in Banff National Park in this undated handout photo. A wildlife photographer is worried about a rare white grizzly in the mountain parks after watching people get too close to it and seeing it run across the highway. The bear, which has been nicknamed Nakoda by locals, was first revealed publicly after it was spotted in Banff National Park in late April. Parks Canada says it’s not an albino, but a natural colour phase variation that makes the three-and-a-half year old bear white. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Jason Bantle
A rare white grizzly is shown in Banff National Park in this 2020 handout photo. A wildlife photographer is worried about a rare white grizzly in the mountain parks after watching people get too close to it and seeing it run across the highway. The bear, which has been nicknamed Nakoda by locals, was first revealed publicly after it was spotted in Banff National Park in late April. Parks Canada says it’s not an albino, but a natural colour phase variation that makes the three-and-a-half year old bear white. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Parks Canada 2020, Sonia Nicholl
A rare white grizzly is shown in Banff National Park in this 2020 handout photo. A wildlife photographer is worried about a rare white grizzly in the mountain parks after watching people get too close to it and seeing it run across the highway. The bear, which has been nicknamed Nakoda by locals, was first revealed publicly after it was spotted in Banff National Park in late April. Parks Canada says it’s not an albino, but a natural colour phase variation that makes the three-and-a-half year old bear white. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Parks Canada 2020, Sonia Nicholl
A rare white grizzly is shown in Banff National Park in this 2019 handout photo. A wildlife photographer is worried about a rare white grizzly in the mountain parks after watching people get too close to it and seeing it run across the highway. The bear, which has been nicknamed Nakoda by locals, was first revealed publicly after it was spotted in Banff National Park in late April. Parks Canada says it’s not an albino, but a natural colour phase variation that makes the three-and-a-half year old bear white. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Parks Canada 2019

A wildlife photographer says he’s worried about a rare white grizzly living in mountain parks in Alberta and British Columbia after watching people get too close to it and seeing it run across a highway.

The bear, which has been nicknamed Nakoda by locals, was first revealed publicly after it was spotted in Banff National Park in Alberta two months ago.

Parks Canada said it’s not an albino, but a natural colour phase variation that makes the 3 1/2-year-old bear white.

“This colour phase variation is unusual for grizzly bears but has been seen before,” the agency said in a statement. “Grizzly bears are typically brown, black or blonde however there have been records of grizzly bears with a white colour phase variation.”

Photographer Jason Bantle, who’s also a biologist, said the now-famous bear has been seen on the railway tracks and along the Trans-Canada Highway in Yoho National Park, which is next to Banff National Park on the B.C. side of the provincial boundary.

There is fencing that prevents wildlife from crossing the highway through Banff, but similar fencing hasn’t been installed in Yoho.

Bantle said he saw a transport truck narrowly miss the bear as it darted across the highway one evening. He also watched people getting out of their vehicles to get a photo of the bear as it grazed on the vegetation along the highway the next morning.

“One individual … approached the bear within 50 metres,” he said. “That’s unacceptable.”

ALSO READ: After grizzly spotted in B.C. village, mayor warns not to come searching for the bears

Bantle said he stayed at least 200 metres from the bear and turned on the hazard lights on his vehicle to make sure people knew to slow down.

“As a nature photographer, it’s a fine line between getting images and making sure the individuals are conserved,” he said. “It requires Parks Canada to have bear monitoring and education.”

Parks Canada said in its statement that the bear, along with its brown-coloured sibling, spends time in both Banff and Yoho parks.

It said observing wildlife in its natural habitat is a privilege that comes with responsibility.

“If you see wildlife near the highway, do not stop,” the agency said.

“When visitors see wildlife in other areas, they should consider not stopping or, if safe to stop, always stay in their vehicles and give the animal space. Bears and other wildlife that become comfortable around people and roadsides are at greater risk of being struck by a vehicle.”

It also reminded people that feeding wildlife is not allowed in a national park, but didn’t say whether it is considering additional measures to keep the bear safe.

Bantle would like to see Parks Canada have its wildlife guardians keeping an eye on the bears when they are close to the highway, but he suggested locals and visitors also have a part to play.

“This bear is being recognized internationally,” he said. “What is our responsibility as Canadians?

“We have to step up.”

— By Colette Derworiz in Edmonton.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

bears

Just Posted

COTR honours Orange Shirt Day

A virtual event to raise awareness about Orange Shirt Day is being hosted early on Sept. 22

Invermere gets new CAO

Invermere found his new CAO after a long period of research.

Radium council discusses short term rentals

RHS council are elaborating the second draft plan for STR

Farmers’ Institute report highlights emerging local food scene

Beef cattle ranching remains mainstay of valley agriculture

Weekend sees 267 cases, 3 deaths in B.C.; Dr. Henry says events leading to COVID spread

There are currently 1,302 active cases in B.C., while 3,372 people are under public health monitoring

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

Ahead of likely second wave, 60% of Canadians relaxing COVID-19 measures

Proportion of Canadians not following safety measures has dropped by 3 per cent in the past two weeks

Canada’s population tops 38 million, even as COVID-19 pandemic slows growth

Immigration, the top population driver, decreased due to the pandemic

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Lightning strike: Tampa Bay blanks Dallas 2-0 to win Stanley Cup

Hedman wins Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP

16 MLAs retiring from B.C. politics add up to $20M in pensions: Taxpayers Federation

Taxpayers pay $4 for every dollar MLAs contribute to their pensions

Liberals seek to fast track new COVID-19 aid bill after CERB expires

Government secured NDP support for legislation by hiking amount of benefits by $100 to $500 per week

Most Read