Project highlights dangers of Banff wildlife encounters
Canmore photographer working on educational documentary
It's not uncommon to see wildlife on the side of the road in Banff National Park — it's also not uncommon to see people getting out of their vehicles to get close to the animals.
Animals that get accustomed to humans often end up getting killed.
A photographer from Canmore is fed up with the situation. She is making an online documentary to educate people about what getting close to animals means.
Banff’s mountains, scenery and wildlife drew Ginevre Smith to Banff from Australia three years ago.
"I love to [photograph] the bears, wolves when I find them, moose are really amazing."
She spends hours cruising in her car searching for precious moments, but she’s often interrupted by "bear jams," traffic snarls caused when drivers spot wildlife on the side of the road.
"I've seen a crowd of a dozen people with cameras, phones, following and chasing a young black bear down the road, eating berries, a few weeks ago. Standing a metre from elk and pointing cameras in face, flash," said Smith.
Steve Michel of Parks Canada says there are often reports of tourists feeding the wildlife.
"We have an old mantra, a fed bear is a dead bear. That is very true. Unfortunately, that aggressive behavior when they seek out human food, garbage. It's not safe to have animals like that in Banff National Park."
The animals often end up being destroyed. Smith says it makes her feel powerless.
"These people don't have common sense, treat animals this way, habituating animals beyond what should really happen," says Smith. "I wanted to do something about it."
She's is making an online documentary that will teach tourists how to behave around wildlife before they even arrive in Banff. She hopes tour companies will run it on their websites, maybe even their shuttle buses.
Michel agrees public awareness is everything. He says Parks Canada has been spreading the message for years, but says it's impossible to reach all of the more than three million visitors Banff Natinal Park has each year.
"People are very excited when they come here and certainly very excited when they get to see wild animal, which is probably the dream of their trip," says Michel.
"Sometimes common sense goes out the window when they get that opportunity to see the wildlife."
Smith hopes her documentary will help keep at least some of the tourists grounded. She plans to film it over the next few months and release it in the spring.