Along with the classic scenery, those travelling along the Cabot Trail in the Cape Breton Highlands this summer are seeing more black bears.
“We’ve had a significant increase in the amount of bear sightings,” said Erich Muntz, the visitor safety co-ordinator for the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
That’s meant an increase in what have become known as ‘bear jams.’ They are traffic jams caused by bear activity.
“We have people slowing down, traffic piling up and a bear in the middle,” he said.
It’s not new, but Muntz said it has been happening more frequently this year.
He cautions those who see a bear to slow down and put on their four-way flashers. But they shouldn’t stop and they shouldn’t get out of the vehicle.
“Sometimes we have situations where people are actually getting out of their vehicle, approaching the bear, and several of our bears have young cubs, so there is potential for some conflict there,” said Muntz.
A black bear gets close to a vehicle on the Baie Verte Peninsula, N.L. Similar close encounters have been reported in Cape Breton this year. (Submitted by Brad Perry)
Traffic has slowed to a standstill frequently over the past few weeks because of the bears travelling through. Muntz said the bears are along the side of the road looking for fresh fruit and ants.
He said it’s been a daily event for a few days now and it can take up to 45 minutes for the bears to move along so traffic can flow again.
“Absolutely do not feed wildlife,” he said. “It’s actually an offence in the national park and there’s a fairly stiff fine associated with it. So slow down, enjoy that view and keep rolling on through.”
He said there have been some close calls but no accidents.
The close calls include people slamming on their brakes or approaching bears who had cubs close by.
“That can be quite serious and significant,” said Muntz.
He said he knows seeing a black bear is a thrill for many, but safety needs to be a priority.
“The Cabot Trail is an iconic landscape and it’s an amazing opportunity to see wildlife in their natural environment here,” said Muntz. “But at the same time we have to recognize it’s a highway. There’s people travelling at good speeds and we don’t want to harm the bear or people.
“We can manage people a lot easier than we can bears so it’s important for people to do their best to help us wherever they can.”Read more