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New study aims to help human and wildlife coexistence in Bow Valley

A new report looks into ways humans and wildlife can better coexist in the Bow Valley and says it starts with education and adding more facilities that reduce animal encounters.

Initiatives include more fenced areas and a second dog park in Banff

Covered bins on construction waste sites is one the measures suggested in a new study. (Submitted by Andrew Hempstead)

A new report looks into ways humans and wildlife can better coexist in the Bow Valley and says it starts with education and adding more facilities that reduce animal encounters.

The study, called Human-Wildlife Coexistence, included input from Parks Canada, the Alberta environment ministry and the towns of Banff and Canmore.

The result is a set of strategies to reduce the presence of people in wildlife habitat and mitigate negative human-wildlife interactions.

The key strategies include the following:

  • Exclude wildlife form developed areas.
  • Improve habitat security in wildlife corridors.
  • Remove animal attractants in developed areas.
  • Reduce human-caused mortality.
  • Improve interagency collaboration.

Darren Enns, director of planning and development for the Town of Banff, says more work needs to be done but these initiatives should help reduce conflict around townsites.

"A number of the key findings to do with human wildlife coexistence in the Bow Valley were around management of humans," he said.

Some plans include the development of a second off-leash dog park in Banff, which Enns says will help encourage dog owners to be outside of wildlife corridors.

As well, they plan on adding more covered bins on construction waste sites and fences around recreation grounds, which would minimize the luring of animals into human populated areas.

According to the study, education is also an important aspect that reduces animal and human interaction — particularly efforts around preventing the feeding of wildlife.

Past successes and failures

Enns says the transition to bear-proof bins in the 1980s significantly changed bear and human conflict.

"We're really trying to build on a number of successes in the past," he said.

He adds that the project came back to the forefront in 2017 after a hunter killed a notorious female grizzly, "Bear 148," when she wandered into B.C from Alberta, where it's illegal to hunt grizzlies.

Candace Batycki of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative ​​has said more must be done to protect bears.

Bear 148, seen here in an undated handout photo, was killed by a hunter in 2017 when it wandered from Alberta into B.C.'s McBride region. (Alex P. Taylor/Parks Canada/Canadian Press)

"Bear 148 was not in a protected area when she was killed but she was in grizzly bear habitat," she said. "Her death highlights the need for collaborative, cross-border conversation between B.C. and Alberta," Batycki said in 2017.

Enns says this unfortunate situation across jurisdictional management of "Bear 148" gave their team a chance to recalibrate on what needs to change within Bow Valley and the town of Banff and build on past successes.

"One of the critical issues moving forward is how does this report and its findings live on?" he said

"We continue to work with our partner agencies at the Town of Canmore, Parks Canada and Alberta Environment and Parks to determine what that looks like."

With files from The Canadian Press and Elise von Scheel.

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