Grizzly balanced on Highway 93 barrier a reminder to steer clear
Bears out of hibernation and looking for food in mountain valleys
Photos of a grizzly bear balanced on top of a highway barrier in Kootenay National Park, west of Banff, are a good reminder to leave the animals alone this time of year as they come out of hibernation, says a human-wildlife conflict specialist.
Mark Pollon was a passenger in a vehicle driving along Highway 93 just north of Radium when he got out his 50 mm camera and snapped a few shots of the agile bear.
"I have never seen anything like this before and was able to capture some stunning images of the bear tight-roping the barricade," Pollon said in an email to CBC News, adding he wanted to share the pictures to help raise awareness that bear season has begun.
"I was the passenger in a car so [the shots were] taken safely from a moving vehicle. We didn't come to a stop, which makes the images even more amazing."
Pollon said he saw a total of 11 bears as he headed to Radium on Friday and then back home on Sunday.
Parks Canada human-wildlife conflict specialist Jon Stuart Smith for the Lake Louise, Kootenays, Yoho region says the organization has set up a no-stopping zone for a 13-kilometre stretch of Highway 93, east of Radium Hot Springs from the McKay Operations Centre to Cobb Lake trailhead, that goes into effect Friday.
Parks has set up the no-stopping zone during the spring-summer season since 2014.
Smith said the bear in the photos is about 4½ years old and grew up in the Olive Lake area. The young bear's mother also has two young cubs, born last year, that live in the area alongside six other bears.
"The bears are really focused on that area because it's a really excellent food source for them," he said. "Because of the narrowness of the valley where the highway goes through, the bears are feeding really close to the road, and that's potentially a very dangerous situation.
"People unfortunately have fed this bear last year on a couple of occasions," said Smith. "This is part of the reason for the no-stopping zone, is to try and ensure this bear doesn't get fed any more human food so we can prevent it from getting habituated to people."
Smith said regardless of whether or not a no-stopping zone is in effect, Parks Canada recommends people not stop close to wildlife as it can stress out the animals, habituate them to the presence of humans and possibly put people at risk.
"If they're gonna stop, we want them to stop in a safe place to do so. We know people come to our national park to see wildlife like this, we'd rather have them stop 100 metres away from the animal and get pictures from a safe place like that."
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With files from John Gibson, Sarah Rieger