Tourists walk right up to grizzly bear in dangerous encounter near Banff

A family from Nova Scotia visiting Banff National Park was hoping to see a grizzly bear, but when they did, they certainly didn’t expect to see the foolish behavior of other tourists.

Mark Sawlor was driving with his family on the TransCanada Highway between Banff and Lake Louise last Wednesday when they noticed cars pulled over to the side of the road. Then they saw the grizzly bear.

“The bear was amazing; we wanted to see a bear in exactly those conditions, like just on the side the road, behind a fence, [from] in a car, you know, not on a trail or something,” Sawlor told Global News.

They saw more than that, however. They witnessed other tourists behaving badly:

The video shows two women walking right up to the grizzly bear on the other side of a wire mesh fence, but other tourists did similar things.

“People brought their kids and walked up, right to the fence, and brought their kids up to the fence,” Sawlor told Global News. “People turned their back to the bear. All kinds of just craziness.

“They [the people] just were not thinking. They felt that that fence would protect them and it clearly wouldn’t.”

Even Sawlor’s kids realized the ill-advised actions by the tourists.

“Just zoom in, people,” one child says. “Just zoom in from in your car.”

Sawlor’s wife called them “crazy” and wondered if they’d better move on, saying,
“I think we should drive away so the kids don’t see somebody eaten by a bear.”

Tourists believe they were safe when walking up to a grizzly bear behind a wire mesh fence.

Sawlor told CBC News that the tourists “broke every rule there are around bear encounters” and that “the more people that gathered, the safer they felt.”

Parks Canada advises people to remain 100 meters away from bears, wolves and cougars.

Brendan Cox, public affairs officer for Justice and Solicitor General, told Global News that in back-country areas, “We advise that people should always be in groups of five or more, carry several cans of bear spray and air horns. When walking or biking, make lots of noise so as not to surprise a bear, and keep dogs on a leash.”

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