How stupid can you be?
How can anyone be stupid enough to feed wieners, pepperoni sticks, and bread to a black bear?
That’s the question wildlife officials are asking following an incident on the David Thompson Highway (Highway 11) near the north gate to Banff National Park on May 19.
Jeff Bingham, a wildlife photographer witnessed the event as it unfolded.
“Confronting people is not the answer,” he wrote on Facebook, where he posted a photo that shows the license plate on the vehicle.
“So I found a Parks Canada person, and reported it.”
Parks Canada investigated the incident and determined it took place about 5.5 kilometres (3.4 miles) outside the north gate to Banff National Park, the Calgary Herald reports.
In a national park, feeding wildlife carries a maximum fine of $25,000. Officers in provincial parks and recreation areas can also charge people up to $250 for the act.
But there are no provincial laws that would allow Fish and Wildlife officers to issue a fine in this incident.
“It is certainly not something our officers condone,” Brendan Cox, spokesman for Alberta Justice and Solicitor General, told the Herald.
“Outside of a park, there is no specific violation that refers to feeding wildlife in this way.
“Officers will try to discern the license plate and the owners of the vehicle so that the people involved in this case can be educated about how irresponsible it is to feed bears, or any wildlife for that matter.”
The discrepancy concerns those who work to reduce conflicts between people and wildlife.
“That worries me, because now people will think they can get away with that,” said Kim Titchener, director of Bow Valley Wildsmart.
“We don’t want people feeding wildlife…they might think it’s fun and it’s cute and they get this great picture, but they’ve killed that animal. They are responsible for that animal’s death now.”
Provincial officials said they will keep an eye on the bear to determine whether it has become habituated.
“If it learns to associate people with food, then it’s possible it could be approaching people for food in the future,” Cox explained to the Herald.
“Officers will monitor the situation and reassess it if there’s any future incidents.”
Should the bear get into trouble again, it could be captured and either euthanized or relocated.
Although incidents of feeding wildlife are happening less frequently, there have been a few high-profile cases in recent years, both within and outside of the protected areas.
“I don’t know where people are missing that message,” said Titchener.
“This is a long-standing message since the ’70s.
“Don’t feed the wildlife.”
An expert with Parks Canada told the Herald it could be a bear that officials have handled in Banff National Park.
“In the photo, they are saying there was a green ear tag,” said Brianna Burley, human/wildlife conflict specialist with Lake Louise, Yoho, and Kootenay national parks.
“That does fit with a bear that we did tag around Saskatchewan Crossing last summer and it wouldn’t be unheard of at all for a bear to wander.”
She was concerned about the bear’s welfare if it was fed along the road.
“They start becoming food conditioned,” explained Burley.
“That association between people and food leads to aggressive behavior from bears, which ultimately can lead to injury to people.
“It leaves us for very little room for any management decision and can very often lead to the destruction of those animals.”
Burley said they are noticing more incidents of people feeding wildlife within the park.
“When this came across my desk and we were trying to figure out where it happened, I wasn’t surprised by it,” she said. “Over the past few years, we’ve had more and more reports of this and I am not sure why that’s happening.”
Burley also reminded people to report any bear sightings within the park to Banff dispatch rather than just post it on social media sites.
The Banff dispatch number is 403-762-1470.
Life is hard; it’s harder if you’re stupid.