We drove to Jasper yesterday, and whenever we drive through the parks we are always hoping to see some wildlife. We saw lots yesterday, but our first view of a black bear had us shaken for a while. As we drove toward Mt. Robson on the long slope down below the Terry Fox Rest Stop we noticed a car, a tourist bus, and a pickup truck with flashing lights parked ahead of us beside the highway. We slowed down, not knowing what was going on.
The car pulled away, as did the tourist bus, leaving the pickup with the flashing lights. We then saw a black bear down on the margins of the highway leisurely munching away. I passed the parked pickup (it was a BC Conservation truck) and as I drove slowly, I watched through the rearview mirror. The Conservation Officer got out of the truck, grabbed what looked like a rifle, aimed it and fired. I saw dust fly up at the edge of the road above where the bear was eating.
I couldn’t see the bear because it was below the road, but I assumed the Officer had fired a warning shot and expected the bear to take off for the bush. I didn’t see that happen.
Then I wondered if the bear had been tranquilized and expected the Officer to slowly walk toward the bear. He didn’t. Instead he got in his truck and pulled out.
By this point I was driving really slowly, watching through the rear view mirror. Both my wife and I were horrified wondering if the Conservation guy had just killed the bear.
The pickup slowly caught up with me. I was hoping it would pass so I could turn around and go back and see what happened to the bear, but the truck continued to follow me. I finally just turned left into the Mount Robson Tourist Center road to lose him, but the pickup turned too. I pulled over and parked, and so did the Officer.
I got out of the car, walked over to the pickup and asked what had happened up there with the bear.
The conservation guy then explained:
There had been a grain spill from an accident on the side of the highway several days ago, and ever since the bear has been coming down to eat the grain. The Officer figured it would only be a matter of time before the bear got hit by a car on the highway, so every day he would go down and shoot the bear with a paint gun (he showed me the gun and the paint pellets).
He was trying to discouraged the bear from eating there. He said he could use rubber bullets, which would hurt the bear, (he said he probably should because the bear keeps coming back), but so far had only used the paint gun.
The officer figured I probably had the wrong impression about what was going on (I certainly did) and had followed me to explain. Both my wife and I were thankful for the explanation, because we were both really upset thinking that the bear had been killed.
As we continued our day trip to Jasper, we were both really relieved knowing that the bear had just been chased away.
This episode was just the first to make our trip to Jasper a memorable one. More about our trip tomorrow.
Take a look at my photo-realistic paintings: davidmarchant2.ca