Parks Canada is trying a hazing program to teach elk to stay away from people in Banff National Park.
The aim is to minimize dangerous encounters with aggressive females during calving season and keep calves away from the townsite because they attract bears, said human-wildlife conflict specialist Blair Fyten.
There is nothing high-tech about the strategy, he said.
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“The basic method is we just use a hockey stick and on the end of this hockey stick we got a bunch of either flagging or a garbage bag tied onto it,” Fyten said.
“And when you approach the elk you just keep your stick held up high in the air and you wave it back and forth and all that flagging makes a bit of noise, and as a rule the elk generally run away from you.”
If that doesn't work, officers shoot a paintball gun loaded with chalk balls that break apart on impact, Fyten said.
11 incidents last year
“We use that to just direct the elk along, we don’t actually hit them.”
In the case of extremely aggressive elk, officers shoot rubber bullets at their rumps.
The calving season starts around the middle of May and can last until the end of June, Fyten said.
There were 106 aggressive elk incidents in the park in 1999, with only 11 last year.
There has not been any incidents in the last five years of elk charging and actually hitting a person, Fyten said.
“So, you know, we’ve dropped that considerably,” he said. “For the most part they’re staying out of town. You know, we get very few instances where we actually have elk calving in somebody’s backyard anymore.”