Feeding wildlife leads to no good
It’s not often we dedicate editorial space to the same issue in back to back weeks…
But, again with the wildlife feeding?
Last week, RMO had stories about a wolf being killed due to the fact it had lost its fear of people after being conditioned to associate easy food with humans. Further, a black bear that found easy food pickings in Banff’s Two Jack campground was captured then released out of the area to keep it from being further food conditioned – which, in the end, like the wolf, will likely result in its death should it return.
And now, we have out of country tourists offering meat to grizzly 64 and her cubs to draw them closer to a tour bus for photos.
The thing is, using meat to try and attract a bear for photos simply conditions it to associate food with humans and an easy meal – which can result in it becoming a “problem bear” that may be destroyed in the future.
Hey, with bear numbers dwindling in the mountain parks, we can ill afford to lose more females that can reproduce and bolster general population numbers.
In particular, we can’t lose a “good bear” like 64, a producing female who has stayed out of trouble while living her life, with several litters of cubs, on the fringes of the Banff townsite.
It’s bad enough that provincial wildlife managers moved very quickly to fly grizzly bear 105 and her two female cubs to the Hinton area (she’s now in Jasper) on June 26 after they wandered through some Canmore neighbourhoods. A third female cub of 105s was relocated to K-Country, so at least that one remains more or less in the area.
However, that’s three females that would hopefully reproduce for years moved out of this area of the Rockies. How these bears will fare in the future remains to be seen.
Now, we realize that here in the valley we’re sensitive about what happens with our bears – whether they are killed on the tracks by trains or on the highways by speeders, whether sloppy campsites are attracting them, whether off-leash dogs are harassing them…
But that same sensitivity doesn’t translate to everybody who visits this area; we realize that.
Residents and many tourists are well versed in bear etiquette, the rights and wrongs, if you will, that keep human/bear interactions to a minimum.
But clearly, as in the case of people feeding rice cakes to wolves on Highway 93 south or feeding them in K-Country, tossing meat at a bear near Vermilion Lakes or people leaving garbage and food in campgrounds, not everybody is up to speed on etiquette.
Because there is a clear and present lack of knowledge concerning our wildlife, the question is obvious – what to do?
On the one hand, Parks Canada is trying to attract more tourists, in more demographics, to the mountain parks; often, people with little knowledge of wildlife.
In all likelihood, the person tossing meat to bear 64 had no knowledge of the damage that could be done by such an act. No doubt offering a morsel of meat just seemed like a good idea at that moment; for someone who desperately wanted to take home a holiday photo of an iconic symbol of the Canadian wilderness.
On the other hand, thanks to the federal government, Parks is also facing job cuts and reduced hours at visitor info centres.
Possibly, instead of the federal government gouging Parks as part of a general deficit reduction process, more money needs to go into education. Possibly solar-powered LED signs with appropriates messages need to be placed strategically throughout the parks – or moved as problem spots are identified. Possibly, more needs to be done to get education materials in the hands of business interests that take advantage of the mountain parks.
In the end, something needs to be done. Can you imagine mountain national parks with no bears?
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