BANFF – A Texas man was fined $300 for illegal camp- ing in Banff National Park earlier this summer that lead to a black bear raiding the food stored beside his tent.
On Wednesday (Sept. 11) morning in the Canmore Provincial Courthouse, David Neves, pleaded guilty to illegal camping, resulting in a $300 fine from Judge Margaret Keelaghan with a second charge under the National Parks Act section 32(1)(c) for unlawfully interfering with a fauna or natural beauty of a park, being discharged due to “unusual circumstances.”
Neves apologized for his behavior in the courtroom, later telling the Outlook he encourages people coming to Canada to do their research about local wildlife.
“All my actions were embarrassing and I should’ve done more research on Banff before I came here ... do whatever you can to learn more about the country you are visiting to keep yourself safe and keep the environ- ment safe,” Neves said.
Neves was in the country for the Tour Divide, a ultra-endurance bike race from Banff to New Mexico when the 59-year-old decided to take a mini trip before the race to check out the surrounding area.
Neves was cycling from Banff to Lake Louise on June 12 when he got tired and set up camp along the Bow Valley Parkway. He double bagged his food and set it under his bicycle to discourage wildlife, thinking of raccoons – unaware there are bears in the area.
Later waking up to a black bear attempting to get in his food, Neves called 911 and waited for Parks Canada, who showed up half an hour later by the time the bear had already left the area. He was then transferred to the Tunnel Mountain campsite, given a warning for having food out and charged with illegal camping.
Charged by the Crown for two counts under the Canada National Parks Act, federal prosecutor Anita Szabo was seeking $250 for illegal camping and $1,000 for the bear getting into his food.
Szabo noted that while Neves’ did not intend to feed the bruin, he did also not prepare himself and habitu- ated wildlife is a concern in the valley, as the bears can end up being destroyed as a result.
Judge Keelaghan said Neves likely had the life scared out of him and is confident he will now do his research about local wildlife.
“Often these bears get destroyed and it is just a huge tragedy ... but these are particular circumstances, I will even call it exceptional, so I will grant you absolute discharge for the second count,” Judge Keelaghan said.
The fine goes to the Environmental Damages Fund.