Watch out for animals near the road
Drive with care and be prepared to avoid a collision at all times. Be especially cautious at dusk and dawn, when many animals are most active, and visibility is poor.
If you see an animal by the road:
- Slow down. It could run out into your path at any time.
- Warn other motorists by flashing your hazard lights.
- Where there is one animal, expect others nearby.
If you wish to stop and view roadside wildlife:
- Pull safely out of traffic.
- Remain in your vehicle.
- Move on after a few minutes.
If you see a bear beside the road, consider this:
It may run onto the road.
At any time, anywhere. And especially if there are crowds of people stopping to watch it, getting out of their cars, approaching too closely. In the past 10 years, 125 bears have been killed on roads in the mountain national parks.
It is stronger and faster than you are.
It may look 'docile', but a bear that appears unconcerned about your presence is the one you should fear the most. It's obviously not afraid of you, and it could be getting a bit bothered by all the people who keep disturbing it - all day long, day after day...
It is likely eating or looking for food.
Bears have to eat almost constantly during the snow-free months to accumulate enough energy to survive their long winter hibernation. Being able to feed undisturbed may make the difference between life or death for that bear or, if it's a female, for her offspring: though she may have mated in the spring, she can't get pregnant unless she builds up enough body fat over the summer.
It could be a female.
In this harsh mountain environment, it takes a female grizzly 7 years to reach breeding age, and her cubs will stay with her for 3 or 4 years. This means she may only produce two litters of offspring in her lifetime - a very low reproductive rate. The unnatural loss of any individual, especially a female, is therefore a serious threat to the long-term survival of the population.
It could be an adolescent.
Trying to find its place in a difficult world, an adolescent bear is highly susceptible to picking up bad habits (like losing its natural fear of people) and getting into trouble (by approaching people for food). The fact that relatively few roadside adolescent bears survive to maturity in our busy parks is one of the reasons that scientists fear for the future of the grizzly in this part of the world.
If it loses its wildness, it probably won't survive.
'Habituated' bears - bears that have lost their natural fear of humans - almost inevitably become ‘problem’ bears. They actively seek out places where people congregate because they have learned that where there are people, there is also food and garbage to eat. Over time they become increasingly more aggressive in their search for an easy meal. Problem bears usually end up having to be removed or destroyed because of the threat they pose to public safety. It is very difficult, and often impossible, to undo habituation. The only real solution is prevention.
Give Them the Space They Need
Please do your part to limit the impact that so many people have on park wildlife. Give all the animals you see the respect they deserve and the space they need. Enjoy a safe visit and ensure that future generations have the chance to see wildlife that is truly wild.
If you see a bear beside the road, consider not stopping.
Prevent conflicts with wildlife
They may sometimes appear unconcerned by our presence, but all park animals are unpredictable and potentially dangerous.
- Always keep your distance.
Do not approach or entice wildlife. Use binoculars or a telephoto lens instead.
Remain at least:
- 100 metres (10 bus lengths) away from bears, cougars and wolves
- 30 metres (3 bus lengths) away from elk, deer, sheep, goats and moose
- Never leave food attractants out for wildlife.
Food attractants include:
- coolers (they are not bear proof)
- food scraps or leftovers
- dirty dishes, pots or barbecues
- empty bottles, cans or wrappers
- toothpaste, soap or other toiletries
- pet food dishes (full or empty)
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Because it is impossible to predict how wildlife will react in any situation, avoiding encounters is the only sure way to keep people safe and wildlife wild.
- Always be on the lookout for animals or signs of their presence.
- Carefully supervise children whenever outdoors.
If you are approached by a predator
If you are approached by a cougar, wolf or coyote, send a clear message that you are NOT potential prey.
- Pick up small children immediately.
- Do anything you can to make yourself look bigger.
- Be prepared to use pepper spray if you have it.
- Fight back aggressively if attacked.
- Do not crouch, play dead, run, or turn your back to the animal.
To a carnivore, your pet may look appetizing.
- Keep dogs on a leash, walk them in open areas and during daylight hours only.
- Do not leave pets unattended outside.
Elk are wild animals too!
Getting too close to elk is hazardous. Attacks have occurred at any time of the year. Females are most aggressive during the May/June calving season, and males are especially dangerous during the September/October rut. Learn more.
What should I do if I see a bear?
If you are driving: stay in your car, and consider not stopping.
- Stay calm. If a bear rears on its hind legs and waves its nose about, it is trying to identify you. Remain still and talk calmly so that it knows you are human and not a prey animal. Bears may also bluff charge: run toward you and turn away at the last moment. A scream or sudden movement may trigger an attack.
- Pick up children, stay in a group.
- Back away slowly, don’t run.
- Leave the area. If this is impossible, wait until the bear leaves; make sure it has an escape route.
- Make noise. Clap, sing or yell to announce your presence, especially where a bear might not otherwise smell, hear or see you coming. (Bear bells are not very effective.)
- Travel in groups, on established trails, and during daylight hours.
- Minimize odours by proper storage of food, garbage and toiletries.
- Leave the area if you see a bear or fresh tracks, droppings, diggings; or if you come across a large dead animal (a bear may be nearby).
If you surprise a bear and it defends itself:
- Use bear spray if you have it. PLAY DEAD, let it know you are not a threat: lie on stomach with legs apart, cover back of head and neck with hands, keep pack on to protect your back.
If a bear stalks you and then attacks, or attacks at night:
- Try to escape, use bear spray if you have it. FIGHT BACK, let it know that you are not easy prey. (This kind of predatory attack is very rare.)
Ticks and Lyme disease
Throughout Jasper National Park, from April to November, there is a small chance of being exposed to Lyme disease if bitten by an infected blacklegged (deer) tick. Lyme disease is a serious illness; however, it's easy to prevent and treat when caught early.
For more information on Lyme disease, blacklegged ticks, and how to protect yourself from tick bites while enjoying the outdoors, please visit the following websites:
DO Try "Seton watching"
Find a comfortable, safe spot, and just sit quietly and observe. Watch how creatures interact with each other and their habitat. You’ll be amazed at what nature will reveal!
Resist that impulse to get close, reach out, or call out to wildlife. Use binoculars and telephoto lenses. Your best chance of observing truly wild nature is to become as insignificant as possible ....but stay safe. Retreat immediately if an animal approaches you or shows any sign of aggression.
DO See small
The big creatures get all the press, but there just aren’t that many of them out there. It’s more rewarding to look for the smaller ones. Interest - like beauty - is largely in the eyes of the beholder.
DO Think big
While observing the activity at an ant’s nest, for example, contemplate the ant’s role in the bigger picture-as a model of society, perhaps, or as an important source of food for grizzly bears.
DO Intrude less
Cherish the knowledge that there are creatures living wild and free out there, whether you see them or not. Buy a wildlife postcard and write about hearing wolves howl, or finding lynx tracks.
DO Learn more
Join a Parks Canada interpretive program, hire a guide, read one of the many books about the nature of the mountains. Indulge your curiosity!
Don't feed or disturb wildlife.
The chance to observe wild animals as they go about their natural lives is one of the most fascinating experiences that our mountain national parks have to offer.
Along with this opportunity, however, comes the responsibility to treat wild animals with the respect they deserve, and need to survive.
It’s not easy to ‘make a living’ here in the mountains. Wildlife must devote all available energy to simple survival: feeding, resting, staying warm or cool enough, avoiding natural dangers, and producing healthy offspring.
Every time we disrupt these natural activities we are, in effect, taking energy away from their survival ‘bank account.’ With millions of people visiting our mountain parks every year, these ‘withdrawals’ can quickly add up to ‘dead broke.’
Is there a difference between a wild bear and one in a zoo? We can only guess at what the bear might think. But from our perspective, isn’t the very thing that makes wild animals so attractive to us the fact that they are indeed wild? Unfortunately, when animals become used to being around people, they are in danger of losing that very thing that makes them special, their wildness.
How can we keep park wildlife WILD and ALIVE?
Parks Canada staff are trying to teach some bears to avoid busy areas by using noise-makers, flares, rubber bullets and even specially trained bear dogs. We call this aversive conditioning .
You may also see crews and signs along park roadways asking for your help in preventing animal jams , dangerous traffic jams around roadside wildlife. Please do your part; every action counts!