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Bears in the Mountain National Parks

Tips for Roadside Bear Viewing


Seeing a bear in the wild is one of the most sought after experiences in our national parks. It is truly a unique and remarkable sight. This rare privilege however, comes with the important responsibility of minimizing the impact of your viewing activities on vulnerable bear populations.

If you are in a bear jam ... (a traffic jam caused by people viewing roadside bears)

  • Drive by slowly instead of stopping. This is the best way to minimize your impact on a roadside bear.
  • Warn other motorists by flashing your hazard lights.
  • Be extra cautious as sight lines are often blocked by improperly parked cars.
  • Be on the lookout for distracted drivers, people crossing the highway, or the possibility of a bear darting out in front of you.

If you decide to stay ...

  • Pull over safely without blocking the driving lane (ideally at a pull-off).
  • Observe and photograph bears from the safety of your car.
  • View from afar. Please ensure that you are not crowding, approaching or obstructing a bear’s pathway.

What you can do to help bears survive ...

July, August and September are critical months for the survival of Banff’s population of 40-60 grizzly bears and 40-60 black bears. It is during this extremely important period that bears need to accumulate enough fat reserves to survive the upcoming winter. This time of year also corresponds to the busiest season; during one summer month there is an average of 519, 500 people visiting the park. Consider the cumulative impacts this volume of visitors may have on such a small bear population! It is extremely important for you to be diligent about not disrupting a bear’s feeding activities. The stakes are high; their survival depends on it!

Give bears space, space and more space!

Visitors often do not realize that their enthusiasm and excitement to take pictures and to view a bear in the wild causes them to get too close or to crowd these sensitive animals. These inadvertent behaviours force bears to abandon good foraging roadside for inferior habitat that is free of humans. It also requires them to expend unnecessary energy to travel and locate alternate places to feed.

The repeated impact of people getting too close to bears also causes them to lose their natural fear of humans. Bears that become comfortable around people and facilities are at a greater risk of being
struck by vehicles or finding improperly stored food and garbage by negligent park users. Please do your part by viewing bears responsibly, and by securing all scented items in a vehicle, storage locker or trailer.

Mountain Wildlife Viewing Guide