Editorial – Want bear claws???

Mac Olsen

When it comes to bear encounters, how reckless can people become, especially tourists?

I am referring to an incident that took place in Jasper National Park on July 22, when a bunch of tourists stopped to take pictures and videos of a bear.

A passing driver video recorded the bear charging at a woman, who was among those taking photos. The incident could have turned tragic because of the woman’s own recklessness and of course, the recklessness of all involved for having left their vehicles.

They got too close for the bear’s liking and that wild animal could have done a lot of harm. What if it was a sow with cubs likely to act more aggressively? Fortunately, in this instance, the bear was not particularly aggressive.

Because many humans love to test extreme danger without weighing the consequences of their actions, it begs the question.

If those tourists were on an African Safari, would they have gotten out of their vehicles to get close-up photos of lions, rhinos or elephants?

Because of incidents like the one in Jasper National Park, the “nanny state” comes into play. It’s a sad state of affairs when people need protection from themselves through regulations, legislation, etc.

And in the case of the Jasper National Park incident, the federal government may have to ban tourism from areas of those parks where such close encounters with wildlife occur.

People have to take responsibility for their own actions and have enough common sense to avoid getting in harm’s way.

But obviously, some people do not heed the danger of encounters with wildlife and the “nanny state” has to step in to do their thinking for them.

When I was eight years old, I encountered a black bear cub near my home but I had the sense to run away from it because I was educated to be wary of mother bears with cubs.

That cub also had the sense to run in the opposite direction, so no harm came to anyone.

Another bear encounter that didn’t end well happened in the fall of 1998. I had just begun the journalism program at the University College of Cariboo (now Thompson Rivers University) in Kamloops, when a bear wandered on campus and climbed a tree.

A bunch of people stood around the tree gawking at that bear, ignoring advice to leave the bear alone. The end result was that Fish and Wildlife officers had to come and shoot the bear. Again, human curiosity proved to be to the detriment of a wild animal.

If you conduct a Google search, you will find stories and videos of incidents where animals killed humans because they delibertately crossed into their territory. In many of those cases, the animals had to be destroyed through no fault of their own.

So, I implore everyone, whether you’re a resident or tourist, for the sake of wild animals, don’t let your curiosity get the better of you. It’s not worth the risk to your life or the animals.


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