Parks Canada is vowing to throw the bylaw book at photographers who are harassing bears in search of that award-winning, holiday-capping, money making photo of a grizzly in the wild, and RMO supports the decision (page 4).
In fact, we believe the threat of Parks staff pulling out the ticket book in relation to photographers who are approaching bears to capture their image is long overdue.
Given that one of the greatest issues with humans and wildlife interacting in this valley is habituation, the fact that many photographers, professional and amateur alike, are constantly cruising area highways and biways and bear hotspots is likely leading to this exact situation.
It takes little imagination to picture a scenario where constantly seeing vehicles cruising roads, then stopping, then windows dropping and a camera lens appearing would aid in bears becoming casual in their attitude toward cars. And if enough photographers approach closely by car or on foot, there’s little doubt they are contributing to bears’ becoming too accustomed to human presence.
It may simply be a case of loving something to death.
It’s one thing to happen across a bear, take a photo, then move on. But when it comes to constantly trolling the area to hopefully see bears and take photos, the issue takes on a new form.
And it’s one thing for our Parks neighbours to the south, in Waterton, to have problems with deer in the townsite that require hazing by dogs to get them out of town. Waterton deer, it seems, have become so accustomed to human presence in the townsite that they are taking glee in aggressively putting the run on tourists and residents alike.
Habituated deer are unlikely to kill you, though.
Bears, black or grizzly, are another thing entirely. Bears need to fear humans as much as we need to fear them – for their own safety as well as our own.
If a bear loses its fear of humans and attacks, the situation ends badly, often horribly, in many instances – with the death of the bear and who knows what effect on the humans it attacks.
Rather than becoming accustomed to vehicles and/or people stopping and approaching for photos, bears have to associate vehicles and people with danger – this will hopefully keep them off roads where they can be struck and killed.
Put yourself in a bear’s pawprints as the number one predator at the top of the foodchain in the Bow Valley… you already fear little, if anything, and if you become too used to cars and people being around, all fear of your only predator (humans) could be lost.
If photographers and rubber neckers don’t stay away from the bears, Parks could have little choice but to close some of the roads bears are found near, or step up policing to the point where a tourist experience could be tainted.
It’s not like steps to reduce human/wildlife conflicts haven’t already been taken in the valley; for example, removal of bird feeders during summer months and removal of buffalo berry bushes in neighbourhoods and popular campgrounds.
Common sense in this case, is what’s in order.