Animals had to be shot because of food habituation and increasingly bold behaviour around people
By Robson Fletcher, CBC News
After having to shoot several wolves last year, officials in Banff are stepping up efforts to prevent park visitors from feeding and approaching wild animals in anticipation of an exceptionally busy summer season.
“Human food kills wildlife,” said Parks Canada spokesman Greg Danchuk. “And the other key message is: Give wildlife space.”
Those messages will be plastered throughout Banff on posters, signs and pamphlets as part of a new awareness campaign.
Ganchuk said more workers have also been hired to deliver the messages in person to visitors at day use areas and campsites.
The goal is to ensure all wildlife attractants — including things like dishwater, toiletries and stoves — are put away properly.
Banff is expected to be especially full of visitors this summer as entry to national parks is free in 2017 as part of Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations.
In theory, violations within the national park can be subject to fines of up to $25,000, depending on the severity.
“But we really hope that, with the communications plan, that we won’t have to go to that extreme,” Danchuk said.
Keath Crandall, who was visiting Banff this week from Salt Lake City, Utah, welcomed the increased presence of Parks Canada staff.
“Yeah, it doesn’t hurt to have someone come around,” Crandall said.
“But this is a very big campground. It would be a lot of manpower to do that. I mean, there are hundreds of sites here.”
Two wolves had to be killed last year after becoming habituated to human food and demonstrating increasingly bold behaviour around Banff visitors.
A local grizzly known as Bear 148 has also been involved in several close encounters with humans recently, pursuing a group of hikers and their dog near Mount Norquay and showing up unannounced at a girls’ rugby practice in town.
Parks Canada is also reminding visitors to keep their distance when taking photos of wildlife.
The awareness campaign advises staying at least 30 metres away from elk, deer, bighorn sheep and mountain goats when taking photos.
For bears, wolves and cougars, Parks Canada advises people to stay at least 100 metres away.
When taking photos of animals from a vehicle, visitors are asked to pull over only in locations where it is safe to do so, use their hazard lights to alert other drivers, and not linger too long.