A mother wolf was killed by parks officials in Banff National Park this week, after being taught that people and campgrounds were an ideal place to find an easy snack. She was taught this by visitors to the park intentionally or unintentionally fed her, and the rewarding behaviour was potentially being passed on to the rest of her pack.
Global News may have reported this as an animal being “euthanized” out of necessity, but we know the truth: a mother was killed because of the actions of irresponsible people.
And sadly, this isn’t new. The same week that this mother was killed, the CBC reported on a “wolf warning” in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Increased reports of wolves approaching campsites and people prompted the warning, and unless something changes, it is likely that these wolves may face the same fate as the mother in Banff.
At the root of these incidents, and many others involving many other species, are irresponsible actions on the part of people. By not following basic camp or wilderness safety and precautions involving food, and in some instances intentionally providing food or attractants to gain a close-up interaction with wildlife, non-human animals are being taught that human areas are a place to get food. And regardless of how an individual may feel about wildlife, other people may be afraid, may not know how to react, and could even injure themselves or the approaching animal.
A great deal of re-education is required to teach park visitors – including foreign tourists and locals – how to act responsibly outdoors, particularly regarding food safety. But it’s also up to us, as responsible visitors, to call out those we see not acting, and to push local authorities to investigate and enforce available by-laws or regulations.
Too often, we find that the lives of wild animals are in our hands. The question we must always ask ourselves is: what will we do to protect them?