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July 13, 2023
In Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, Parks Canada is hiring Indigenous employees to change the way people think about bears
As a wildlife biologist in Waterton Lakes National Park in southwestern Alberta in the 1980s, Kevin Van Tighem spent most of his time worrying about running into a bear while out on the job.
One June morning, while checking the beaver ponds near the park’s entrance for fish, he came face to face with that fear when he ran straight into a grizzly bear cub.
“My heart stopped. Because of course, there’s a mother somewhere,” Van Tighem, who retired in 2011, says while sitting on the deck of his cabin near Pincher Creek, Alta., not far from Waterton.
Another cub appeared behind a log. Van Tighem looked around and into the eyes of the sow, standing just metres away. He stood frozen in a panic, thinking of his wife and children and what would happen to them if he was killed. He thought of his own mother and how she’d feel to lose her son.