Well, along comes May and with it respite from the clutches of winter. Already the trees are budding; the grass is taking on a greener hue, and everywhere are the signs of spring in full throttle taking hold.
One of the best things to do this time of year, if you’re interested in seeing wildlife, is to simply do a drive down the valley. Everywhere there are groups of up to fifteen (sometimes even more) whitetail and mule deer. Of course, with spring the resident hawks are out, too, and every farmer’s field has its regal feathered patrolman perched like a sentry on a leaning fence post.
If you’re interested in seeing bears, they’re starting to come out, too – just the other day I was driving along the highway and spotted a sleek black sow with her two cubs. The local bears are generally always the smaller, less rugged black bears, although (confusingly enough) they aren’t always black, and may range from a reddish cinnamon to a dark brown to, of course, jet black.
While we’re on the topic of wildlife – and especially bears – it would probably be wise to brief all you would-be travellers on some major safety issues concerning these incredible, beautiful animals. Every year parks officials or game wardens destroy bears because they have become problem animals, ranging just a little too close to their human neighbours for comfort. Why do they do this? Quite simply, because these human neighbours let them.
There are lots of ways to attract a bear’s attention and believe me, a bear’s attention is NOT something you want to attract! Some very simple, basic rules for preventing potentially dangerous run-ins with bears (and other wildlife) include:
Dispose of ALL your garbage often, in a tightly closed, heavily lidded container at a waste disposal site; there are often roadside garbage bins located at highway rest stops, and campsites, attractions, and tourist sites will always have appropriate facilities for safe disposal of garbage.
Never chase after, try to get closer to, or approach a bear. Bears are highly unpredictable, at all times, in all instances. Where one may be shy and run the other way, the next bear will become infuriated within seconds – possibly leading to an attack.
NEVER try to feed any wild animal – this goes for not only bears, but also for the many deer, elk, mountain goats, sheep, etc. that you will very likely see in your travels. This is completely illegal and punishable by heavy fines, not to mention dangerous.
Enjoy nature’s beauty at a distance. Remain in your vehicle AT ALL TIMES – these are wild animals; although they may seem used to human contact, they are still unpredictable. Mothers protecting their young, and animals defending their territories, have killed people. Don’t be a statistic.
If you are camping, keep your area spotless. Burn all the garbage that you can; tie your food out of a bear’s reach off the ground (and ensure the distance from the tree to your food is also great enough that it can’t be reached! because yes, they can climb).
NEVER keep food in your tent; wash yourself and your dishes frequently to avoid tantalizing food odours from attracting wildlife. Do not even keep foods such as granola bars or small snack foods – keep it well away from your sleeping areas.
If you follow these simple rules, you are well on your way to enjoying a safe, happy visit to our incredible area. A good idea is to stop in at one of the local infocentres (located at McBride, Valemount and Mount Robson) and pick up a few brochures on wildlife safety tips – including what to do in case something DOES happen.
Of course, while you’re there, you can also grab materials on just about everything else that there is to see and do around here…so use your chance and stock up your itinerary!
Happy (and safe!) travelling!
If you want more information about this area you can email the author or check out our North American Insiders page.