Nfld. & Labrador

It's never a good idea to poke — or feed — the bear

Staff warn visitors to keep their distance and never feed the bears in Gros Morne National Park.

Strong warnings from park officials as visitors get up close and personal with young black bear in Gros Morne

This young bear was sniffing around vehicles on the Baie Verte Peninsula last summer. Parks Canada says getting too close can be harmful to them, and you. (Submitted by Brad Perry)

A growing number of reports of people getting up close and personal, even taking selfies, with a young black bear in Gros Morne National Park has prompted strong warnings from park officials.

"You're feeding that bear, it's very cute and looks like something from Disney," said Jennifer Hoffman, who oversees visitor safety at the park.

"But they might bite you," she added.

"They're coming up to the cars and they seem like a nice little friendly bear, but they're still a wild animal," said Hoffman in an interview with the Corner Brook Morning Show.

A couple driving through Gros Morne National park took this photo earlier in June. (Submitted by Brook Walters)

There have been several yearlings spotting in the area, feeding on vegetation. They also come for the garbage left behind by visitors and that only adds to Hoffman's concerns.

It's illegal to feed or disturb any wildlife in a national park.- Jennifer Hoffman, Gros Morne National Park

"Animals that get handouts from people or get used to eating garbage along the side of the road … can lose their natural wariness of people," said Hoffman. "Somebody could get hurt. Those animals don't need food from us."

While the parks were created for people to visit and enjoy, they also have a role in protecting the wildlife and vegetation in them. Hoffman said there are serious consequences for visitors who don't follow the rules.

"I want to be clear: it's illegal to feed or disturb any wildlife in a national park," said Hoffman. "We take it really seriously. Somebody convicted of feeding an animal can face quite substantial fines, up in the thousands of dollars."

Feeding bears is not only unsafe but it's also illegal. Park officials say it could lead to the bears becoming less wary of humans. (Paul Conrad/Associated Press)

Hoffman stressed that it's OK to stop and take pictures of animals inside the park but people should use caution and common sense when doing so.

"It's really good to see people getting the chance to see wildlife," she said. "Stay in your vehicle and keep at least 100 metres away from the animal.

"Pull off the road completely and only in a safe place. Never, ever, ever, ever feed wildlife."