Close-call and a tragedy serve as reminders to be responsible pet owners in parks

Close-call and a tragedy serve as reminders to be responsible pet owners in parks

Dogs and wildlife suffer when pet owners are irresponsible – even if it’s only a momentary lapse. In the last two weeks, one group walking an off-leash dog near Banff was issued a fine, and another group lost their dog in an incident with a bear in Jasper.

The former incident took place on May 5 on Stoney Squaw trail, north of the Town of Banff. According to the Rocky Mountain Outlook, the group of hikers were on the trail and their dog was running ahead of them, off-leash. That’s when they encountered the black bear, sitting on the trail.

“The bear sat down and apparently growled, but did not show any further aggression,” Bill Hunt, resource conservation manager for Banff National Park told the Outlook. “They called back the dog, the dog came and the bear did not follow, fortunately.”

The hikers dialed 9-1-1 and, when wildlife wardens arrived, they were charged with having their dog off-leash – an offense in Banff National Park that holds a fine of up to $25,000.

The next incident took place less than two weeks later in nearby Jasper National Park. According to the Outlook, a car had pulled over to observe a black bear on the side of Highway 93 around 9 pm when the dog escaped the car and chased the bear. The dog did not survive the encounter.

Parks Canada noted that, “although this bear has not acted aggressively towards humans, our human-wildlife conflict specialists will continue to monitor it.”

We love dogs and want them to have full lives – but we must recognize that to wildlife, our beloved pets are potential threats, predators, or prey. Dogs do not understand this, and as such, it’s up to us to make sure that they – and the wildlife whose homes we’re exploring – are safe.

Please also remember that when encounters like these occur it is often the wildlife, not the dogs or their owners, who are punished.

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