Stop feeding and gawking at roadside bears, Yukon groups urge – North

It’s not unusual to see bears along the South Klondike Highway in Yukon, nor is it unusual to see a car, or two, or three, pulled off on the shoulder, taking pictures of those bears.

Occasionally, people are even tossing them snacks.

A new education campaign involves pamphlets, road signs and one-on-one education for visitors and tourists. (CBC)

That has to stop, according to a number of local organizations and groups that have teamed up on a new initiative. They’ll be putting up road signs and handing out pamphlets this summer, urging people to “respect our bears.”

“This is such a heavy tourist corridor in the summer, and people really love to see bears,” said Heather Ashthorn of Wildwise Yukon, a local non-profit that’s involved in the campaign.

“We have heard from some of our other outreach initiatives over the last couple of summers… that there is a problem with the human-bear system in this area, and a lot of it is due to food conditioning,” she said.

“Probably a lot of that behaviour comes from innocence and ignorance, but is quite destructive along the way.”

Sandwiches and bananas

Jeff Piwek, a B.C. conservation officer, has seen all kinds of troublesome behaviour. Part of the South Klondike Highway runs through B.C., and the province has signed on to the new initiative.

“Sometimes the bears… might go away from a vehicle. So people are taking it upon themselves to try and get those bears closer, and usually that’s enticing them with a sandwich or a piece of fruit or other foods,” he said.

“What I’ve seen is bears on the side of the road eating discarded sandwiches and cut up bananas — all these non-natural foods.”

When bears become accustomed to seeing humans, ‘it often can lead to conflict,’ says Yukon conservation officer Ken Knutson. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

Yukon conservation officer Ken Knutson agrees it’s become a big and worrisome problem. When people stop to feed or photograph bears, the animals “get used to…

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