Ever since I was little, seeing all kinds of wildlife, from caterpillars to sea turtles, made me feel a strong connection with nature. I always imagined I had animal companions like in one of my favorite childhood books, The Golden Compass. It is such a magical gift to witness the beauty of animals. My trip to Banff, Yoho, and Jasper National Parks was absolute bliss because there was wildlife everywhere. I saw six bear cubs, four grizzlies, seven black bears, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, many gorgeous birds, and even a porcupine. I also saw a lack of awareness for the proper respect to give these creatures while on this trip. Therefore, I have created a do's and don't post.
Take a Camera and/or Binoculars
Many people get out of their cars in order to take pictures with the wildlife. This is very disrespectful to the well-being of these creatures as well as being dangerous to humans. For your safety, you are supposed to be 300 ft. from bears or cougars and 100 ft. from mountain goats and bighorn sheep. Sometimes if they are right by the side of the road that is impossible, but stay in your car! The grizzly pictured above was very close to our car and people were getting out of their cars to get within 5 feet of him and take pictures with their smart phones. If this grizzly had decided he was done with his dandelions and wanted to eat human for lunch instead, it would have been very easy for him. In another instance, I saw people get out of their car and take a selfie with a big horned sheep who was was very disgruntled because he was separated from his herd. If these animals are desperate enough they can ram a human and I'm sure their horns would not feel good. I was about 100 feet from the great horned sheep that you see 2 pictures above, when they decided to quickly come over the hill and run towards me, not agressivelly, but because they wanted to be back with their herd. I had to make a very quick scramble to get out of their way. It probably would have been better for me to be taking pictures out of the window roof of my car. If you buy a camera with a good zoom you can see the creature up close and capture some great shots all from the safety of the car.
While photos don't quite capture the magic, they are still my favorite souvenir. I bought a new camera for this trip, specifically with the hope of photographing wildlife. It was great to watch wildlife through the zoomed-in camera lens, however it took me away from fully experiencing and seeing these amazing creatures. By the end of the trip, I would take a few pictures and then watch, knowing that the beauty unfolding in front of me was ungraspable. Many cameras with this good of a lens are very pricy, but the Panasonic Lumix FZ720 is the affordable option I went with. All of these pictures were taken with it. The mama bear and bear cubs you see below were taken with this at a 300 ft. distance from the safety of the car.
What to do if you see a Bear in the Wild:
Whether they are by the side of the road or on a hiking trail, these creatures need space.
- Carry bear spray and be sure you know how to use it. If you fly out of country to a place like Banff or Jasper, buy it there.
- In Grizzly country wear a backpack; watch video below to see why.
- Never turn your back on a bear; walk sideways to keep your face to them as you move away.
- Hike in a group and/or make noise while hiking in bear country so that you alert any bear to your location. They feel most threatened when they are startled by you. I saw many solo hikers singing or whistling to themselves on this trip for that exact reason.
- If you run into a bear while hiking, speak to it calmly and firmly and try to go back the way you came or give it a very wide birth to move around it.
- If it approaches you, yell at it and stomp your feet, making yourself as big as possible, or in my case, sing opera. There are a few stories out there about people successfully singing at bears or mountain lions to detour them.
I am in no way a bear expert. I just like to go in the mountains a lot so I have done my research. The only place I have encountered bears was on this trip to Jasper, Banff, and Yoho National Parks. After this trip, I have been completely enthralled with them because they are so magnificent. For more great information on bear encounters go to https://www.nps.gov/subjects/bears/safety.htm. I also think the Brave Wilderness Bear Attack information video is a must watch before going into Grizzly territory -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doiFDlS6zHI.