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

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

Comments are closed

Just Posted

B.C. orders Coastal GasLink to stop pipeline construction near protected wetlands

The 670-kilometre pipeline is planned to transport natural gas from northeast B.C. to Kitimat

Northwest Indigenous governments form new alliance

Alliance intended as way to share resources, maximize opportunities

Authorities urge residents to manage garbage after having to dispatch another bear

RCMP and Conservation officers had to deal with another bear after it got into a residence’s garbage.

New study reveals Spirit bears are rarer than previously thought

The gene responsible for Spirit bears is up to 50 per cent rarer than previously estimated.

Haisla celebrate 14th annual G’psgolox Day

July 1 marks the day the g’psgolox pole was repatriated to the Haisla Nation from Sweden.

The pandemic is widening Canada’s workplace gender gap

Gender pay gap is incentivizing fathers to work while mothers watch children, a new B.C. study has found

Feds announce $8.3M to deal with ‘ghost’ fishing gear in B.C. waters

Ghost gear accounts for up to 70 per cent of all macro-plastics in the ocean by weight

Almost 99% less land in B.C. burned this year compared to 2018

2018 was the worst year on record for wildfires

B.C. tent camps persist as hotels, housing bought for homeless

Current estimate 40 camps, homeless counts stalled by COVID-19

VIDEO: Trio of orphaned Alberta grizzly bear cubs find new home at Vancouver zoo

The Alberta cubs’ mother was killed by hunters and would have otherwise been euthanized, zoo says

VIDEO: Racist ‘cotton’ comment by B.C. student generates outrage online, response by school

Administrator says ‘no doubt that implicit and overt discrimination is present’ in schools

Recent COVID-19 hotspots show ‘cases can reemerge at anytime’ in Canada, feds warn

Njoo said the recent increase in reproductive number brings home the importance of watching for outbreaks

Inside the undefined world of a Rainbow Family gathering in B.C.

Celebrations are underway to mark the annual gathering of the controversial Rainbow Family of Living Light

Singh calls on Trudeau to address systemic racism in police forces

Singh said Trudeau needs to move on specific actions including reviewing the RCMP budget

Most Read