Banff visitor gets too close for comfort while photographing grizzly

Grizzly photographer Ray Blanchard/CBC

Part of the draw of visiting National Parks is the wildlife viewing opportunities. Moose, deer, wolves, and bears have been known to stop traffic, but when viewed quickly and from a safe distance, park visitors are able to take a peak into their wild lives.

Though there’s a bit of a love-hate relationship with visitors pulling over to look at wildlife (passing cars and distracted visitors both in and out of vehicles can be extremely dangerous), Parks Canada advises staying 100 metres away from the wildlife and only remaining for a short time. Unfortunately, not everyone follows the guidelines set out by the national parks system for wildlife encounters.

Courtesy of Parks Canada/CBC

Ray Blanchard, a Calgary-area photographer, set up his camera 70 metres from a 300-pound grizzly in Banff National Park when he spotted a tourist too close to his subject. There was a crowd of 20 to 30 people gathered close to the bear, but one man stepped out of the crowd and stopped within a few metres to get a close-up shot on his cellphone.

“Grizzlies can be very unpredictable,” Blanchard told CBC. As a local wildlife photographer, Blanchard said he see this kind of thing happen all the time, but this encounter was particularly risky.

Park officials eventually arrived to clear the area, but the crowd didn’t go far.

“They drove away in their cars, about a block away, then they started walking back to the bear to take pictures,” he said. “Unbelievable.”

Not only putting the person at risk, Blanchard also worries about the danger to a cornered animal, all for the sake of a cellphone picture.

Photo by Ray Blanchard/CBC

“I’d hate to see a beautiful animal like that destroyed because of people’s stupidity,” he said.