If you’ve driven through the mountains in Banff National Park on a summer long weekend you’ve probably seen them. They’re there hanging out on the side of the road in hoards, blocking traffic, running around cars to get to the other side, eyes wide with the hope of getting close and getting that perfect shot. No, I’m not talking about elk. Rather, humans, in their RVs and cars clogging the highways and parkways in the desperate hope to capture a photo of a roadside bear or elk.
Besides being a nuisance to drivers and a safety hazard to people pulled over, these so called “bear jams” can have serious consequences for onlookers and the animals that are just going about their everyday business. Mountain highways are important pathways for all living things. Because of this, animal and human interactions are common occurrences that can sometimes lead to unpleasant consequences for both parties.
There are a few things you need to consider when you choose to get up close and personal with the wildlife in Banff National Park on the road. Remember that these are unpredictable, wild animals so an encounter with one could lead to hard consequences for both humans and the animals. Consider the safety of the people around you, yourself, and the lives of the wildlife you see. Bears that become used to human presence often cause other problems in areas of human development and if they are not able to rehabilitate these animals, they are destroyed. It’s a sad time when a beautiful bear has to be put down but unfortunately it is the reality of this area. Parks Canada has one easy rule to remember: never leave the pavement to view a roadside bear or other wildlife.
As you drive through the mountain parks this summer remember the animals and other people around you as you clamber for your photo. If you can’t get close to an animal without leaving the safety of your vehicle, think twice. Chances are there will be another one down the road. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife crossing the roads and check your speed. If you see a bear consider not stopping as this allows them the space they need to forage for the hard winter they face. Admire the wildness of our landscape and work to keep it that way. For more bear facts, see the Parks Canada website and read about their efforts on conservation and management.