Manage the people, not the animals – lessons from park systems

Kerri Martin Photography Bear
Twice in the last week, park officials have done what is clearly the logical case when the potential for conflict between wildlife and people has arisen: managed the people.

Prior to the Victoria Day long weekend, a photographer stumbled across a feeding grizzly bear in Banff National Park. The bear responded to the threat and charged the man – though neither party was injured. Officials closed the area where the bear had been seen and did aerial reconnaissance to determine movements of the area’s bears.

Once it was determined the bears – all known by officials through a cataloguing procedure – had moved out of the vicinity, the park was reopened to people.

More recently in a Calgary park a moose and her young calves had been grazing, much to the delight of many residents. But despite warnings from park officials, some were getting too close to her – which could lead to conflict. As a result, the park is being closed temporarily, until the moose and her calves move on.

In both of these decisions, two things are being stated:

  1. People, not wildlife, are the ones who often instigate conflict
  2. People, not wildlife, are the ones who need to change their behaviour

These two cases illustrate how a reasonable response, with basic biology and ecology in mind, can mitigate conflict and protect wildlife across Canada. It’s something all of us – and our parks, municipal and provincial managers should embrace.

Photo by Kerri Martin Photography

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