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Tips for interacting with wildlife at national parks

Canada is home to a range of amazing animals, many which inhabit national parks across the country.

With the Canada 150 celebrations getting underway, and free park visits for everyone, even more people will be visiting these wildlife hotspots.

Despite the amazing opportunity for Canadians to get a glimpse of some elusive species, the BC SPCA says this appeal can have a downside by putting their habitat at risk.

To prepare, the organization has put together a list of tips for nature lovers who want to help keep the wild, wild.

1. Don’t feed wildlife

“It’s actually illegal to feed wildlife in our national parks,” said Meghann Cant, BC SPCA animal welfare educator.

If they lose their natural fear of humans, they even can become dependent on handouts.

Visitors are also urged to store all food items according to park guidelines to keep from indirectly feeding wildlife.

Tossing food scraps out your window while driving, even if they’re compostable, can lure wildlife dangerously close to the road where they could get hit.

2. Stick to the trails

Creating your own trails can damage vegetation and disturb animals.

Dogs who roam free can chase or even attack wildlife, and some wild animals may respond aggressively.

“Off-leash dogs can lead carnivores such as bears and cougars back to your family,” said Cant. “Ungulates like elk could associate your dog with a wolf or coyote and attack.”

While at the park, you should keep your dog on a leash at all times unless in a designated off-leash area.

3. Don’t take wildlife selfies

Getting too close to wild animals causes them stress and could put you in danger.

“Now’s the time to invest in a camera with a telephoto lens or a good zoom function!” said Cant.

Parks Canada recommends that you keep at least 30 metres away from large animals and 100 metres away from bears.

4. Watch the roads

Roadways attract wild animals because they provide easy travel and access to forage.

Drivers should stay alert, especially at sunrise and sunset when wildlife is most active.

“Watch for shining eyes,” says Cant. “And, remember, if you spot one animal, look for others because animals often travel in groups.”

When traffic is stopped for a roadside animal, you may be tempted for a closer look. Instead, remaining in your vehicle and passing by slowly is your safest option.

For more information, check out Park Canada’s “Keep the Wild in Wildlife” tips.

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