When Banff had lots of tourists, but too many elk visiting town

In 1998, some 500 elk were hanging out in Banff, Alta. That was a problem for the people who lived there and for the nearby national park.

Some 500 elk were estimated to be living in and around Alberta tourist town in 1998

The CBC's Natalie Clancy reports on the high numbers of elk in Banff, Alta., in the summer of 1998. 2:29

An Alberta tourist town was drawing new sightseers.

The problem was its newest guests were elk and they weren't loving their human company.

"Banff has become an example of what not to do with a national park: the town has thrown nature off balance," the CBC's Natalie Clancy told viewers on The National on July 23, 1998.

"The elk population here has exploded because the town has become a haven for them. There's lots to eat, no predators in sight."

But Clancy explained "the mix of so many people with wild animals has become a dangerous combination."

'These are wild animals'

Elk were hanging out in the Town of Banff itself, as well as the nearby national park. (The National/CBC Archives)

Judy Loretan was out jogging and surprised an elk, which turned around and charged her.

She feared a lot of tourists would not realize that getting too close to an elk could be a problem.

"These are wild animals and this is what people visiting ... don't realize," Loretan told CBC News.

The elk were also damaging the plants they were eating in the park and on properties in the townsite.

Not the fault of the elk

An estimated 500 elk were living in and around Banff, Alta., as of the summer of 1998. (The National/CBC Archives)

"We need to re-establish the movement of predators around the Town of Banff, so that when we can adjust the numbers of elk, predators can maintain those numbers and not allow them to increase to unnatural concentrations," said Dave Dalman of Parks Canada.

Clancy said Banff was home to an estimated 500 elk and a proposal was being debated to relocate 400 of those animals deeper into the park.

But at least one critic saw a lack of fairness in the relocation strategy under consideration.

"If this natural system where we find ourselves is screwed up, the elk didn't do it, we did it," said naturalist Mike McIvor.

"And I think we need to be very careful that we don't ask the elk to pay the entire price for fixing it."

As of the summer of 1998, the Town of Banff, Alta., was trying to figure out how to deal with the problems resulting from an increasing number of elk encountering humans in the town and the nearby national park. (The National/CBC Archives)