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

Just Posted

Highway 3 closed east of Sunshine Valley

Highway closed just before 11 p.m. Monday, flaggers en route

No confirmed candidates in either Chilliwack riding for snap election

Both ridings went to BC Liberals in 2017 but no candidates announced on day election is called

Greens, Liberals, NDP field Fraser Nicola candidates ahead of October election

Incumbent Jackie Tegart has two opposing candidates after snap election called Monday

60 middle school students in one Abbotsford classroom? It’s true, stunned parent is told

Parent says she was in disbelief when her son told her he was in a class with 60 other kids

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

Group wants Parliament, courts to hold social media to same standard as publishers

Daniel Bernhard made the comments shortly after Friends of Canadian Broadcasting released a research paper

Former worker at Surrey brewery claims he was bullied on the job

Human rights complaint to be heard against Surrey’s Central City Brewers and Distillers Ltd.

B.C.’s Chase Claypool catches first NFL touchdown pass

Abbotsford grad establishes new record for longest scrimmage TD by a Canadian

B.C. has highest number of active COVID-19 cases per capita, federal data shows

B.C. currently has 1,803 active cases after weeks of COVID-19 spikes in the province

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Mission poker player missing in Nevada is found alive and safe

Brad Booth went missing in July 13, found in mid September

B.C. unveils new cannabis sales programs to help small, Indigenous growers

Government did not say how it will define small producers, but says nurseries will be included in the policy

Most Read