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Action on wildlife coexistence won't be easy

If addressing the human-wildlife coexistence issue the communities of the Bow Valley have been struggling with was easy, we would have fixed the problem already. But it is not easy.

If addressing the human-wildlife coexistence issue the communities of the Bow Valley have been struggling with was easy, we would have fixed the
problem already.

But it is not easy. In fact, it is probably the greatest challenge we face as a valley headed into 2019. That’s because changing human behaviour is one of the hardest objectives to reach as a society, especially when those behaviours have gone unaddressed for years already.

When we place our focus on this particular issue, it is important to realize it is a cumulative effect that is being addressed. This is not about any single individual’s actions or inactions, but the sum of all the individuals on the landscape behaving in the same way at different times and locations.

A single person with a dog off-leash, in one place at one time, is not the problem. But when you take every single dog off-leash on the landscape and you add up the times and places they can be found, what you end up with is a pattern of human use. That pattern is what is detrimental to wildlife.

One of the main reasons we are at this point in time as a valley is that more and more of us humans are using the landscape.

Whether it’s local residents or tourists, the number of humans living or recreating in this valley has reached a point where the problem can no longer be ignored.

A recent Alberta Environment and Parks remote camera study of wildlife corridors in the Canmore area is a perfect example of what we as humans are failing to understand about our responsiblity on the landscape.

That study found that 94 per cent of the actvitiy in designated wildife corridors was by humans and even more concerning, was that of those who were found to be recreating in areas set aside and conserved for the use of wildlife, 60 per cent had dogs off leash with them.

It is a privilege to live in the Bow Valley. Our presence here, whether you were born and raised or here five for days, does not entitle anyone to ignore the consequences of our actions as humans using the same lands that wildlife need to exist. Whether those lands are corridors or habitat patches – the different species that call this valley home need their own space and the more we encroach or use that space, the less room there is for wildife to survive. Our use of the valley must be predictable and restricted to those lands designated for human use if wildlife are going to thrive.

As a valley, 2019 is going to be a year during which our communities try to tackle this issue in a substantive way.

More than just education and incentive programs, there are many who would advocate for an approach that clearly draws a line in the sand when it comes to human behaviour. Elected officials have been provided recommendations by wildlife experts on what activities in the valley are part of the problem and the stage is set for a different approach – one that clearly defines what is not allowed and enforces it.

Fruit trees, off-leash dogs, wildlife attractants, human use in wildlife corridors – we know better, the question is how can we get people to behave better?

If you find yourself, or others, expressing the sentiment that you should be allowed to do whatever you whant, wherever you want at any time you want – please take a moment to challenge
that mindset.

We have a different standard of living here than other places – our presence on the lansdscape is having a detrimental cumulative effect on wildlife and we need to take our responsiblity as stewards of this landscape more seriously.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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The Rocky Mountain Outlook is Bow Valley's No. 1 source for local news and events.
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