BE SMART IN THE WILD
Key tips for respecting wildlife and protecting yourself
Bow Valley Wildsmart is “a proactive conservation program” dedicated to reducing negative human-wildlife interactions in the area. Founded in Canmore in 2005 by local businesses, environmental groups and three levels of government, the organization has developed a coordinated campaign of education and outreach that increases public safety and enjoyment in nature while supporting and sustaining wildlife populations.
While the materials they produce are specific to the challenges faced in the Bow Valley, what they advocate can be very useful anywhere in Canada that humans and wildlife intersect. Here are some of their recommendations.
• Remember, being close to humans is very stressful for wildlife. Keep a safe distance, perhaps staying in your vehicle if you are road-side. If a crowd of onlookers is gathering, leave.
• If going into bear zones, take bear spray. It is your best defence, and can be useful as a last resort with aggressive moose, elk, wolves, coyotes and cougars.
• Whether you're in a town with nearby wild animals or at a remote campground, do not feed wildlife; it habituates them to human food and makes them more vulnerable to harm. While you are at it, keep your garbage secure, empty your BBQ grease tray and keep pet food inside.
• When hiking in the wild, keep your dog on a leash — it’s better for all concerned.
• If biking, remember that you are more likely to surprise wildlife, in bush, on blind corners and hill crests and beside noisy rivers. Slow down; make noise.
• Always be aware of your surroundings and recognize scat and tracks. Leave the area if you come across a dead animal. Stay on trails and respect all local warnings and closures.
• If you encounter wildlife, stay calm. Stop, do not run away. If the animal hasn’t noticed you, back away quietly and slowly. If you are perceived, back away slowly, speaking in calm voice. Be prepared to use your bear spray.
• Never approach a female with her young, particularly early in the season. During rutting season, be extra cautious about proximity.