Thursday, 11 August 2011 13:13

Living With Wildlife program educates park visitors about wildlife safety

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By Susan Quinlan
Waterton Lakes National Park
This summer, a special crew of Waterton National Parks’ staff will educate visitors about ‘Living With Wildlife,’ suggesting ways to view wildlife while keeping both humans and animals safe.

“The role of the crew is education,” said Waterton National Park Human Wildlife Conflict Co-ordinator, Jon Stuart-Smith.

Summer students hired for this role have a primarily proactive role, added Stuart-Smith.

“The Living With Wildlife crew has three students with good communication skills and knowledge of bears and other wildlife.”

That crew received training from Stuart-Smith and will take what they’ve learned to park’s visitors, as they move throughout the township and surrounding area both in vehicles and on foot.

Those visiting the park this summer can expect to be approached by one of these Park employees, especially if they find themselves in what Stuart-Smith refers to as a ‘wildlife jam,’ where many visitors gather to look at a deer, bear or other wildlife.

“We want them to do it in a safe manner for them, as well as a safe manner for the bears ... The deer are still wild animals and visitors need to remember that.”

Visitors learn about the importance of parking off roadways so as not to block traffic; staying a safe distance away to view wildlife; and the importance of quickly snapping a photo then moving on.

“We don’t want the bears to become habituated to human contact; that creates a whole new problem. If these animals lose their fear, that’s a problem. These animals are all wild.”

That leads to the second focus of the Living With Wildlife program: preventing habituation.

“We’re trying to maintain wildlife as wild as possible. We want to discourage their habituation along roadsides … We use bangers/noise makers and rubber bullets to chase them out of (camping) areas, so they know that’s not a safe place for them to be.”

The Living With Wildlife program is now in place and will run until the end of August, when visitor numbers decline.

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