A Jasper, Alta., photographer who took a video of a group of people taking selfies with wild bears said the incident is another example of people exhibiting poor behaviour around wildlife in the park.
Mike Gere said he was taking his dog for a walk at around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday when he encountered a group of women taking photos with two bears in fruit trees in the town.
He pulled out his camera and documented the incident, which he later posted on social media. In one video, the group takes selfies with the bears, and in another they photograph a bear as it walks close to them.
“I do a lot of wildlife photography tours and I’ve seen lots of inconsiderate behaviour towards bears and wildlife in general. In particular bears, which can be dangerous,” he said.
“The bears themselves could be the ones suffering the consequences. If they attack a human, it’s likely that they’re going to be pursued and destroyed,” he said.
David Argument, resource conservation manager for Jasper National Park, said the matter has been referred to law enforcement and the bears have been relocated.
“It’s a very unsafe situation and not something that we would ever want to see in terms of how our visitors interact with wildlife in this place,” he said.
He said there is a restricted wildlife viewing order in place, which speaks to maintaining a safe distance to predators, including black bears like the ones in the videos.
“We do find that is a common driver for visitors to the park is to get a picture of themselves — to get a selfie in a special place or with wildlife in the background. And that can often lead to placing yourself in too close a proximity to hazards,” he said.
Trees removed, bears relocated
Argument said Parks Canada trapped and relocated the mother bear and her cub Thursday. They were moved to a more remote location in the eastern part of the park away from the townsite.
He said that comes with its own set of risks.
“We’re effectively introducing a brand new cub to other bears’ territories which can pose a risk certainly to their survival,” he said.
He said the mother bear had previously been exhibiting a pattern of letting humans get too close, prior to the videos being taken.
Argument said the two fruit trees the bears were in belong to the Municipality of Jasper and both trees have been removed.
But he said they’re part of a larger problem and there are other bears that frequent the townsite.
“We can’t blame the bears for being attracted to this powerful attractant in town, which is why we’re really seeking cooperation from residents to minimize that attraction by managing their fruit trees,” he said.
That can look like removing the tree, picking the fruit early, or using electric fencing or metal sheeting to make them inaccessible.
He estimates there are around 700 fruit trees in the townsite that they’re interested in removing.
Jasper chief administrative officer Bill Given said in an emailed statement to CBC News that the municipality is working closely with Parks Canada to remove non-native fruit trees on municipal property over time.
“We will also continue to work with Parks Canada to ensure all trees planted on municipal property adhere to the Jasper National Park Jasper townsite approved planting list.”
Argument said if people do encounter a bear they’re asked to remain a minimum of 100 metres away.
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