Concerns raised as people crowd rare white grizzly in Banff and Yoho parks

A wildlife photographer says he’s worried about a rare white grizzly living in mountain parks in Alberta and British Columbia after watching people get too close to it and seeing it run across a highway.

The bear, which has been nicknamed Nakota by locals, was first revealed publicly after it was spotted in Alberta’s Banff National Park in late April.

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Parks Canada says it’s not an albino, but a natural colour phase variation that makes the 3 1/2-year old bear white.

Photographer Jason Bantle, who’s also a biologist, says he has seen the bear on railway tracks and along the Trans-Canada Highway in Yoho National Park, which is adjacent to Banff National Park on the British Columbia side of the provincial boundary.

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Bantle says he has seen the bear nearly get hit by a transport truck as it darted across the highway.

He has also watched people get of their cars and come within 50 metres of the bear to get photographs.

“That’s unacceptable,” he said.

Banff National Park’s white grizzly named Nakoda.
Banff National Park’s white grizzly named Nakoda.Sonia Nicholl/Parks Canada

Parks Canada said in a statement that the bear, along with its brown-coloured sibling, spend time in both Banff and Yoho national parks.

It said observing wildlife in their natural habitat is a privilege that comes with responsibility.

“If you see wildlife near the highway, do not stop,” Parks Canada said.

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“When visitors see wildlife in other areas they should consider not stopping or, if safe to stop, always stay in their vehicles and give the animal space. Bears and other wildlife that become comfortable around people and roadsides are at greater risk of being struck by a vehicle.”

It also reminded people that feeding wildlife is not allowed in a national park.

© 2020 The Canadian Press