Parks Canada is issuing a wildlife alert for Kootenay, Yoho and Banff national parks and is asking motorists to drive carefully and refrain from feeding animals on mountain park roads.
Wildlife face considerable risks this time of year. Wolves and black bears are two species of particular concern. With record-breaking snowfall last winter and a late melt in spring, many remain in valley bottoms in search of food, placing them in close proximity to roads and increasing the probability of accidents.
Seven black bears have been killed on roads in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks this year, with speed believed to have played a major role. All black bear strikes have occurred along stretches of road that have not been twinned or fenced.
“Parks Canada takes the protection of our wildlife very seriously and we are greatly concerned by and regret the loss of these animals,” said Rick Kubian, Resource Conservation Manager in Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay. “Our dedicated staff work hard to minimize collisions with wildlife, but we cannot act alone — we really need the public’s help.”
Parks Canada hopes that increased driver vigilance will make roads safer for wildlife and people. “We ask that visitors please slow down, observe speed limits and be extra vigilant on the roads at dawn and dusk when animals are most active,” added Kubian. “Not only can following the speed limit prolong an animal’s life by many years, it also contributes to human safety and has the potential to save lives.”
Parks Canada is also reminding visitors that feeding or harassing wildlife is against the law and visitors should avoid touching, enticing, feeding, or harassing wildlife. Feeding wildlife can lead to habituation, causing animals to lose their wariness of humans and increasing the risk of accidents. There have been reports of visitors feeding wildlife in the mountain parks this spring and summer, including a recent incident on Highway 93S in Kootenay National Park where a wolf was approached and fed.
Parks Canada employs a number of on-the-ground management actions to help reduce roadside wildlife collisions and habituation, including the use of Bear Guardians and signage to alert visitors to the presence of wildlife on roads. Bear Guardians interact with visitors on park roads to prevent, monitor and manage bear jams. Bear Guardians work closely with resource conservation personnel, who are trained to work directly with bears to minimize the probability of bear/human conflicts and keep bears away from roads, garbage and other risks.
Parks Canada strongly encourages the public to report wildlife sightings and suspicious behaviour — such as wildlife feeding or hazardous driving — by calling 1‑888-WARDENS.
Omar McDadi is the Parks Canada Communications Officer for Lake Louise, Yoho & Kootenay National Parks.