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

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

BANFF, Alta. — 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.”

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.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 15, 2020

— By Colette Derworiz in Edmonton. Follow @cderworiz on Twitter

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version had the bear’s name spelled incorrectly.

grizzly

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

County of Stettler is unsure of Buffalo Lake RV Resort developers’ intentions or ownership

Leaseholders allege Buffalo Lake RV Resort development has possibly gone into foreclosure

Stettler authors continue to break new creative ground

Donna Hoopfer’s latest title, illustrated by her sister Joanne Hoopfer, was released earlier this year

PHOTOS: Flooding hits town on the afternoon of July 7th

Severe afternoon rain sent some folks out to explore in ‘creative’ ways

Stettler Town & Country Museum almost back to full hours

Some buildings are closed due to ongoing hail damage repairs

QUIZ: A celebration of dogs

These are the dog days of summer. How much do you know about dogs?

Serbia bans mass gatherings after virus lockdown protests

Serbia bans mass gatherings after virus lockdown protests

Mississippi seeing big virus outbreak in state legislature

Mississippi seeing big virus outbreak in state legislature

CDC head sticking to school-opening guides Trump criticized

CDC head sticking to school-opening guides Trump criticized

Bolivian president has COVID-19 as virus hits region’s elite

Bolivian president has COVID-19 as virus hits region’s elite

Confusion, frustration abound as feds weigh options for $900M student program

Confusion, frustration abound as feds weigh options for $900M student program

Parents concerned about children’s social lives, survey says

Parents concerned about children’s social lives, survey says

WE details thousands in fees for Trudeaus as volunteers await revamped program

WE details thousands in fees for Trudeaus as volunteers await revamped program

Canada not ready for second wave of COVID-19, Senate committee says

Canada not ready for second wave of COVID-19, Senate committee says

Most Read