It was a classic Canadian moment.
Tourists visiting Waterton Lakes National Park in southern Alberta earlier this week got a thrill as they watched a Mountie in red serge try to chase a young black bear out of the townsite.
Sgt. Clayton Wilbern said his bear chase quickly turned into a full tourist photo op. Wilbern is from Edmonton, but is stationed in Waterton this summer. He was trying to find the owner of a lost wallet when a paramedic told him there was a bear by the lake.
"It was heading towards a playground where there was a whole bunch of kids playing," he said. "So we tried to get it to go around the playground, which luckily we did.… Hundreds of people were watching us as we were trying to get the poor little guy out."
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Wilbern said the chase continued for quite a while — as the bear kept climbing trees — and he had to keep stopping for pictures.
"They were ecstatic, like when the bear was up in the tree I'd have tourists — I remember specifically from Britain — say, 'Oh my God, we came here to see a Mountie and a bear and we get to see both,'" he said.
"They were getting my picture taken with the bear in the background."
He says it's Canada's 150th, so all RCMP officers are trying to wear their red serge as much as possible and interact with tourists when they can.
"It was very Canadian," said Wilbern about the encounter.
Video captures moment
Damian Gillis from Calgary happened to be on hand as the scene unfolded and was able to capture some video of the moment while his family was camping in Waterton.
"They were in hot pursuit.... It was a once-in-a-lifetime shot to get an RCMP in his dress uniform with a black bear," he said.
The bear eventually ran back into the woods.
The wildlife encounter was not unusual for Waterton resource conservation manager Dennis Madsen.
"Occasionally we get bears wander into the town site," he said. "This was a young bear. He had managed to get all the way through town and right down near the waterfront before we got the report."
'Wildlife here are wild'
Madsen said they can't allow the bears to stay in such a busy downtown area.
He said part of the challenge is making sure people stay back, so the bear has a corridor to escape, as the animals will panic if cornered.
"The video clip shows the RCMP officer taking off after the bear, to stay with it as we head to the edge of town," he said.
Madsen said there have not been more bears in town than in the past, but they are definitely on track for a record year of visitors to the park this year during Canada 150 celebrations.
He wants to remind tourists not to feed the bears.
"The wildlife here are wild, and we never want to see them being fed. That's why we don't allow them in the townsite," said Madsen.
"Once they get a food reward, they get habituated to human food and make that association — and that's a very difficult association to break ... and it usually ends very badly for the bear."