Edmonton

Education key to keep visitors safe, wildlife alive in national parks, biologist says

To reduce the number of animals staff are forced to kill, Parks Canada must strengthen its education efforts to better teach visitors how to secure their food and resist feeding wildlife, says a University of Alberta biologist.

Influx of new visitors expected when national parks open gates for free in 2017

Free admission to national parks in 2017 may increase encounters between visitors and wildlife, putting pressure on Parks Canada to educate newcomers to the mountain parks. (CBC)

To reduce the number of animals staff are forced to kill, Parks Canada must strengthen its education efforts to better teach visitors how to secure their food and resist feeding wildlife, says a University of Alberta biologist.

"It's something people are concerned about already, and we're anticipating more problems next year when park access will be free,"  Colleen St. Clair said Monday in an interview on CBC's Edmonton AM.

Next year, visitors will be granted free access to the parks in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Canadian confederation.

That will bring an influx of people, many of whom likely haven't visited the mountain parks before, St. Clair said.

"It'll put more pressure on the parks to make sure that their public education messaging is really strong, that nobody fails to realize they shouldn't feed wildlife," she said.

Numerous bear encounters in Banff this summer and the killing of nine bears in the Revelstoke area during a one-week period has put wildlife management in parks under the spotlight.

For the first time since 2014, wardens killed a black bear in Jasper National Park this year after it became aggressive with a group of visitors.

So far this year, five elk have been killed in the park for behaving too aggressively toward people.

Everybody can do their share to keep animals safe by securing their food, and even water, St. Clair said.

"Don't keep any food or smelly things in your tent. Don't succumb to the temptation to toss out little bits of bread or granola bars to animals. That always ends badly for them."

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