Due to the abundance of bears in the Olive Lake Area, vehicles are prohibited from stopping along South Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park for a 15 km stretch. The specific perimeters are from McKay Campground to Settler’s Road Turnoff. Both grizzly and black bears have been spending time along the side of the road searching for natural foods. The early season green-up and dandelions along this stretch of highway attracts the hungry bears emerging from hibernation.
It may be tempting to stop to get a better look at them, but stopping is restricted for several reasons.
Parks Canada lists the following three reasons for the restriction in the bulletin published on May 16, 2019:
- Stopping creates traffic hazards that are dangerous to passing vehicles.
- Stopping increases danger to wildlife through habituation to people and vehicles.
- Traffic congestion can increase the chance of wildlife being struck on the road.
Stopping is also a danger because Highway 93 has narrow shoulders and blind corners in this stretch. The prohibition on stopping will protect both the bears and travellers.
There are two exceptions to the restriction from stopping along the road in this area. First, vehicles that are legally required to stop for safety checks are still allowed to do so. Second, drivers are still welcome to park their vehicles in designated trailhead parking lots.
Parks Canada and the RCMP is taking the ban seriously and will regularly patrol the no stopping zone. Penalties for violations range from a $115 ticket to a mandatory court appearance and maximum fine of $25,000. The restriction will stay in effect until bears move away from the highway when food becomes more plentiful at higher elevations.
Remember that feeding wildlife is strictly prohibited in the national parks. If you see people feeding bears or other wildlife, please promptly report the incident to Banff Dispatch at 403-762-1470 or via radio. If you choose to stop outside of the no-stopping zone, make sure to follow safety precautions, such as staying inside your vehicle, only pulling over (with all four wheels on the shoulder!) if it’s safe to do so, etc.
For more information on bear safety, refer to these resources from Parks Canada.