BOW VALLEY – For local residents in the Bow Valley, coexisting with wildlife is part of everyday life. But for visitors coming to the region, encountering wildlife is usually a whole new experience.
In 2017, local filmmaker Leanne Allison wrote and directed a new project, Living with Wildlife. That year, the short film was screened at the Banff Mountain Film Festival, was featured on the National Geographic Short Film Showcase and continued to circulate around the world, translated into Italian, Mandarin and Korean.
With the film, Allison wanted to reinforce the Bow Valley’s unique culture of being aware of and living with wildlife.
“You just do certain things that you wouldn’t do in other places, like obeying closure signs and carrying bear spray, having your dog on a leash and when you do see wildlife, don’t get in their space,” Allison said.
"Those are all just kind of cultural norms that you see here that are different from other places. With the film I really wanted to reinforce that culture of living with wildlife.”
To accompany the film, Allison along with local artist Jason Thompson and freelance writer Fraser Los, launched Living With Wildlife 2.0, which is an interactive multimedia site that serves as a quick introduction on how people can coexist with wildlife.
“That was a big reason I wanted to make the website was to just give people one more tool in their toolbox to get these messages out. It’s attractive, it’s fun and it’s just one of many, many ways to try and help educate both visitors and residents,” Allison said.
With the new website up and running, Allison is hoping that it can also be used as an education piece for new and temporary staff working in the Bow Valley.
“Even if they just scrolled and read, even at the very least if they scrolled and looked at the pictures, you’d get some of the key messages and then if you read everything you get more and then if you watch the videos you get even more, Allison said.
Allison said another element added to the multimedia website is the Stoney Nakoda perspective. The quote on the website which comes from Hank Snow from Wesley First Nation which reads, “When we see animals, we see it as a gift.”
As people pass through and visit the Bow Valley, Allison wants to continue to reinforce that culture.
“I thought it’d be great to just understand all the work that’s gone into coexisting with wildlife and just appreciate what these animals go through to survive,” Allison said.
The short documentary and multimedia site, Living With Wildlife are both available online.