A group of five people decided to get a closer look at a grizzly bear and her cub at Jasper National Park recently, leaving the safety of their car to follow the animals at close range and failing to back up even when the sow turned to face them. The incident was caught on camera by another park visitor who stayed in their vehicle, and shared via Instagram account TouronsOfNationalParks, which calls out bad behavior at sites of natural beauty around the world.
The video, which you can watch below, shows the group tailing the sow as she walks parallel to a road, completely ignoring advice to keep well away from wildlife, even animals that don't seem to be disturbed by your presence.
"It may look 'docile', but a bear that appears unconcerned about your presence is the one you should fear the most," says Parks Canada. "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..."
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In this case, the visitors were lucky that the bear was focused on its meal, but things could have gone very differently. Grizzly bears, like most wild animals, prefer to be left alone and will rarely attack, but will do so if they or their young are threatened.
Regular close contact with humans can also lead animals to lose their natural wariness – a phenomenon called habituation – which makes dangerous close calls more likely in future.
"If this is near Jasper Ridge, a local guide told us she was having a hard time finding food and consequently not being able to feed her cubs because of all the tourists harassing her," commented photographer Christine Wriedt Brown. "She was also becoming more aggressive towards people because of it."
Habituation is a serious problem at National Parks in North America, and can have tragic consequences for the animals.
"'Habituated' bears – bears that have lost their natural fear of humans – almost inevitably become ‘problem’ bears," explains Parks Canada. "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."
It's almost impossible to reverse habituation, and these 'problem' bears often have to be moved miles or even euthanized for public safety.
If you do accidentally find yourself in close quarters with a grizzly, you should resist the temptation to run and instead speak calmly to the animal to identify yourself as a human and not a prey animal. Back away slowly without making any sudden movements, and leave the area if possible. For more advice, see our guide what to do if you meet a bear.
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Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.