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EDITORIAL: Parks Canada must take immediate action to protect rare grizzly bear

Dedicated resources, patrols, clear and appropriate restrictions on human behaviour and enforcement, with significant fines for breaching these rules, are needed.

There is rare and unique white-coloured grizzly bear living in the Rocky Mountains national parks.

Between Yoho and Banff, this bruin, unofficially named Nakoda by residents of the Bow Valley, lives inside one of the most protected landscapes in Canada.

Its white colour puts it in the spotlight, and thus at risk, from the attention it has garnered. People want to see it, and those who have been lucky enough to do so, have experienced something special.

But like all good things, human beings are more than capable of ruining things when they get too close, or seek it out to photograph it for their own selfish purposes.

Some would blame "the media" for the current situation, but that is a short-sighted deflection that fails to acknowledge this bear not only exists, but knowing it exists isn't the problem.

At over three years old, Parks Canada has known about it for long enough to have anticipated and expected it would garner significant attention due being a special individual of a treasured species on this landscape.

Parks has had more than three years to establish a plan to manage the attention that a magic eight ball could have predicted would be paid to this bear.  

Now, we know about it and instead of being overrun by feelings of anger, or getting mad at people for being naturally curious, we should be looking to Parks Canada to step up and fulfil its mandate.

Parks must immediately do everything within its power to manage this bear and keep it on the landscape.

First and foremost the greatest danger is the fact that it is frequenting areas along Trans-Canada Highway in Yoho that does not have wildlife exclusion fencing.

We understand wildlife fencing isn't cheap, easy or something that can just be installed quickly. The replacement of fencing from the east gates in Banff National Park to the Sunshine exit cost $26 million. 

But these types of infrastructure projects also benefit local economies and create construction jobs for local communities. If the federal government undertakes stimulus spending to try and support the economy in what is going to be a significant downturn due to COVID-19 – this is a worthwhile project that should be at the top of the list. There are already plans to this work – just no funding for it yet. 

Let's also throw in some wildlife crossing structures too while we are at it, as they have been scientifically proven to improve connectivity for grizzly bears in this region.

As for those getting too close, including those looking to photograph it professionally – the cumulative effects of this must be mitigated.

In fact, we would suggest that managing bear jams is a task Parks should have stepped up to better address years ago.

Dedicated resources, patrols, clear and appropriate restrictions on human behaviour and enforcement, with significant fines for breaching these rules, are needed.

Finally, the public needs to do better to educate and restrain itself. It is enough just to know this magnificent creature exists and lives inside the national park system – a protected landscape where it is less likely to die at the hands of poachers, or because it wanders onto a ranch or other private lands causing issues that some solve with a shotgun.

We all do not need to set eyes upon it. If you do, however, make that special moment as brief as you can, respect its space with 100 metres of distance and be grateful.



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