Hazing and Roadside Bears
Person outside car looking at roadside black bear
© Parks Canada/Bill Swan/KNP
Bears intent on foraging on plants along park highways may tolerate vehicles
and people at close distances, but they are not tame. People that approach
a roadside bear not only put the bear at risk, they risk their own safety
and the safety of others. "Bear jams" also create a traffic hazard.
Wardens sometimes use flares and rubber bullets to haze
bears away from the roadside because:
- it helps keep the bear wild, and;
- it keeps people safe.
Why is it harmful for a bear to be on the roadside?
Valley bottoms have the best quality habitat for bears, but are also places
where we have built roads, campgrounds and townsites. Repeated exposure to
vehicles and people along busy roadsides causes bears to lose their fear of
people. They become habituated bears. Bears that frequent roadsides are also
at a greater risk of being run over on our highways and railways.
Habituation starts slowly, but through constant, repeated exposure to "bear
jams" (traffic jams around bears) it can rapidly progress until bears
becomes increasingly bold and fearless of people. It's a dangerous situation
for both bears and people.
These bears are more likely to become "problem" bears that enter
townsites and campgrounds; places they are more likely to get a food reward
such as carelessly stored garbage. A bear that associates people, vehicles
or facilities with a food reward is well on its way to being destroyed as
a public safety risk.
Does hazing harm the bear?
No. Wardens use rubber bullets and noise makers to give the bear an unpleasant
experience that it will associate with people. The bear is not harmed, but
a rubber bullet does hurt. This unpleasant experience "teaches"
a bear to avoid people and busy roadsides. The bear learns to feed roadside
at night or to move into cover when people are around. This wary behaviour
helps bears survive.