PHOTOS: Concerns raised as people crowd rare white grizzly in Banff and Yoho parks

A rare white grizzly is shown in Banff National Park in this undated handout photo. A wildlife photographer is worried about a rare white grizzly in the mountain parks after watching people get too close to it and seeing it run across the highway. The bear, which has been nicknamed Nakoda by locals, was first revealed publicly after it was spotted in Banff National Park in late April. Parks Canada says it’s not an albino, but a natural colour phase variation that makes the three-and-a-half year old bear white. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Jason BantleA rare white grizzly is shown in Banff National Park in this undated handout photo. A wildlife photographer is worried about a rare white grizzly in the mountain parks after watching people get too close to it and seeing it run across the highway. The bear, which has been nicknamed Nakoda by locals, was first revealed publicly after it was spotted in Banff National Park in late April. Parks Canada says it’s not an albino, but a natural colour phase variation that makes the three-and-a-half year old bear white. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Jason Bantle
A rare white grizzly is shown in Banff National Park in this 2020 handout photo. A wildlife photographer is worried about a rare white grizzly in the mountain parks after watching people get too close to it and seeing it run across the highway. The bear, which has been nicknamed Nakoda by locals, was first revealed publicly after it was spotted in Banff National Park in late April. Parks Canada says it’s not an albino, but a natural colour phase variation that makes the three-and-a-half year old bear white. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Parks Canada 2020, Sonia NichollA rare white grizzly is shown in Banff National Park in this 2020 handout photo. A wildlife photographer is worried about a rare white grizzly in the mountain parks after watching people get too close to it and seeing it run across the highway. The bear, which has been nicknamed Nakoda by locals, was first revealed publicly after it was spotted in Banff National Park in late April. Parks Canada says it’s not an albino, but a natural colour phase variation that makes the three-and-a-half year old bear white. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Parks Canada 2020, Sonia Nicholl
A rare white grizzly is shown in Banff National Park in this 2020 handout photo. A wildlife photographer is worried about a rare white grizzly in the mountain parks after watching people get too close to it and seeing it run across the highway. The bear, which has been nicknamed Nakoda by locals, was first revealed publicly after it was spotted in Banff National Park in late April. Parks Canada says it’s not an albino, but a natural colour phase variation that makes the three-and-a-half year old bear white. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Parks Canada 2020, Sonia NichollA rare white grizzly is shown in Banff National Park in this 2020 handout photo. A wildlife photographer is worried about a rare white grizzly in the mountain parks after watching people get too close to it and seeing it run across the highway. The bear, which has been nicknamed Nakoda by locals, was first revealed publicly after it was spotted in Banff National Park in late April. Parks Canada says it’s not an albino, but a natural colour phase variation that makes the three-and-a-half year old bear white. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Parks Canada 2020, Sonia Nicholl
A rare white grizzly is shown in Banff National Park in this 2019 handout photo. A wildlife photographer is worried about a rare white grizzly in the mountain parks after watching people get too close to it and seeing it run across the highway. The bear, which has been nicknamed Nakoda by locals, was first revealed publicly after it was spotted in Banff National Park in late April. Parks Canada says it’s not an albino, but a natural colour phase variation that makes the three-and-a-half year old bear white. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Parks Canada 2019A rare white grizzly is shown in Banff National Park in this 2019 handout photo. A wildlife photographer is worried about a rare white grizzly in the mountain parks after watching people get too close to it and seeing it run across the highway. The bear, which has been nicknamed Nakoda by locals, was first revealed publicly after it was spotted in Banff National Park in late April. Parks Canada says it’s not an albino, but a natural colour phase variation that makes the three-and-a-half year old bear white. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Parks Canada 2019

A wildlife photographer says he’s worried about a rare white grizzly living in mountain parks in Alberta and British Columbia after watching people get too close to it and seeing it run across a highway.

The bear, which has been nicknamed Nakoda by locals, was first revealed publicly after it was spotted in Banff National Park in Alberta two months ago.

Parks Canada said it’s not an albino, but a natural colour phase variation that makes the 3 1/2-year-old bear white.

“This colour phase variation is unusual for grizzly bears but has been seen before,” the agency said in a statement. “Grizzly bears are typically brown, black or blonde however there have been records of grizzly bears with a white colour phase variation.”

Photographer Jason Bantle, who’s also a biologist, said the now-famous bear has been seen on the railway tracks and along the Trans-Canada Highway in Yoho National Park, which is next to Banff National Park on the B.C. side of the provincial boundary.

There is fencing that prevents wildlife from crossing the highway through Banff, but similar fencing hasn’t been installed in Yoho.

Bantle said he saw a transport truck narrowly miss the bear as it darted across the highway one evening. He also watched people getting out of their vehicles to get a photo of the bear as it grazed on the vegetation along the highway the next morning.

“One individual … approached the bear within 50 metres,” he said. “That’s unacceptable.”

ALSO READ: After grizzly spotted in B.C. village, mayor warns not to come searching for the bears

Bantle said he stayed at least 200 metres from the bear and turned on the hazard lights on his vehicle to make sure people knew to slow down.

“As a nature photographer, it’s a fine line between getting images and making sure the individuals are conserved,” he said. “It requires Parks Canada to have bear monitoring and education.”

Parks Canada said in its statement that the bear, along with its brown-coloured sibling, spends time in both Banff and Yoho parks.

It said observing wildlife in its natural habitat is a privilege that comes with responsibility.

“If you see wildlife near the highway, do not stop,” the agency said.

“When visitors see wildlife in other areas, they should consider not stopping or, if safe to stop, always stay in their vehicles and give the animal space. Bears and other wildlife that become comfortable around people and roadsides are at greater risk of being struck by a vehicle.”

It also reminded people that feeding wildlife is not allowed in a national park, but didn’t say whether it is considering additional measures to keep the bear safe.

Bantle would like to see Parks Canada have its wildlife guardians keeping an eye on the bears when they are close to the highway, but he suggested locals and visitors also have a part to play.

“This bear is being recognized internationally,” he said. “What is our responsibility as Canadians?

“We have to step up.”

— By Colette Derworiz in Edmonton.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

bears

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A man wearing a mask against coronavirus walks past an NHS advertisement about COVID-19 in London, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
92 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths: Interior Health

The region is reporting 92 cases after the weekend

The Nelson Police Department used a nail belt to stop a vehicle carrying large amounts of fentanyl and methamphetamine on the weekend. Photo: File photo
Nelson police seize drugs, make arrests, investigate slashed tires

Anyone with information on these events is asked to call 250-354-3919

The fundraising effort to purchase 40 hectares west of Cottonwood Lake announced its success this week. Photo: Submitted
Cottonwood Lake fundraiser reaches goal

The community group has raised $400,000 to purchase 40 hectares of forest

B.C.’s court of appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Kootenay man appeals 7-year conviction for New Year’s Eve kidnapping, beating

Brandon Coons, 27, was convicted on five charges, including assault with a weapon

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

Vernon’s Noric House long-term care facility’s COVID-10 outbreak has been declared over by Interior Health. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
COVID outbreak at Vernon’s Noric House declared over

10 deaths were linked to the outbreak at long-term care facility

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Gas prices jumped in Golden to 131.9c this week, a trend that's supposed to continue into the summer. (Claire Palmer/Golden Star)
Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Clovechok concerned as gas prices continue to rise

Fuel prices are supposed to skyrocket this summer as British Columbians await BCUC analysis

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Most Read