Thoughtless Chinese Tourists Bait Banff Bears
In an incident reminiscent of Yellowstone National Park in the 1950s, somebody in a Chinese tour group recently tossed sandwich meat at a grizzly bear and her cubs in Banff National Park, baiting the bears to come closer to their van so they could get a better view.
Thousands of hours and millions of dollars have been invested in the protection of grizzlies in Banff. To have that work potentially undone by tourists' irresponsible behavior is heartbreaking, the Calgary Herald reported.
Banff park officials say they gave a stern warning to the driver, and that he has learned a hard lesson, but they cannot proceed with charges because the tourists have since left the country. Great attention and resources are spent each year by Parks Canada and its partners to educate the public about how best to protect our bears, and in particular, the at-risk grizzly population.
Canadian Pacific Railway has invested millions of dollars alone in new infrastructure, refurbishing its railway hopper cars to mitigate the problem of grain leaking onto the tracks. It has also partnered with Parks Canada in a long-term research program to reduce bear mortality through innovative new approaches, such as placing pegs in the railbeds to keep bears from walking down the tracks.
Parks Canada operates a bear guardian program, with trained interpreters on the roads during summer months, educating visitors. They mainly break up bear jams – when tourists and traffic come to a standstill because a bear has been spotted and everyone wants to stop to take a picture. Bear jams are hazardous to animals and humans alike. Habituating bears by tempting them with food or getting too close is one of the worst things humans can do. When wildlife loses its fear of people, it's at greater risk of coming into populated areas, attacking someone and eventually needing to be destroyed.
"Studies in Yellowstone National Park have shown that habituated grizzly bears are four times more likely to die an early, human-caused death than wary, wild bears," says Parks Canada's website.
Sadly, the Alberta government is forced to kill a certain number of habituated bears every year. Last year, 145 garbage-habituated black bears had to be destroyed at poorly managed oilsands camps.
With just 60 grizzlies left in Banff, it is extremely concerning that tourists would toss meat at a family of grizzlies, endangering the future of this mother and her cubs.
Tour guides need to remind visitors that feeding wildlife in the park is taboo, and ensure that guests understand how to behave responsibly and respectfully in our national parks.