Court fines German tourists for chasing Lake Louise grizzlies

A group of German tourists who chased a sow grizzly bear and her two cubs last summer at Lake Louise escaped with nothing worse than a $750 fine.


[Wednesday, November 17, 2010 — By Betty Ann Adam, Saskatchewan News Network; Postmedia News] These grizzly bear chasers are lucky they’re not dead meat.

A group of German tourists who chased a sow grizzly bear and her two cubs last summer at Lake Louise escaped with nothing worse than a $750 fine.

The group’s host, Eduard Saam, 30, who is now a Saskatoon resident, took responsibility for disturbing the endangered species in a Canadian national park and heard sentencing submissions as conveyed by a German translator Tuesday in provincial court.

Saam was charged under the National Parks Act last June 20 at Banff but the matter was waived to Saskatoon, where such charges are rarely seen, noted federal Crown prosecutor Carol Carlson.

Saam and his wife, who have lived in Canada for about a year, were fishing beside the Bow River near Lake Louise campground with three relatives from Germany when they spotted the mother grizzly and two cubs.

The Germans were so excited about the sighting all they thought of was getting a photo, said defence lawyer Brian Pfefferle. A woman inside her camper saw the group chasing the bears while waving their arms, shouting and whistling at them, Carlson said.

The bears went into the bush “but after two minutes the bears came back out of the woods.”

“That’s when she called the park attendants,” Carlson said.

By the time a conservation officer arrived, the German group was in a vehicle leaving the area. There was no description in court of how the bear encounter ended but there was no mention of any injuries.

“By their nature, grizzly bears are unpredictable and extremely dangerous,” Carlson said, reading from a note on the file provided by the conservation officer. The group, “placed themselves in peril by encroaching on the bears’ space. It was an extremely dangerous situation for all involved,” she said.

Saam realizes now how reckless his and his friends’ behaviour was, Pfefferle said.

None of the group was drinking alcohol at the time, he said.

Judge Marty Irwin said a lot of wildlife in Canada is romanticized. “Many people think its cute to have their kids feed black bears. But with one swipe of a paw, they could easily break the child’s neck. There’s a very good reason why wild animals are called wild animals.”

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