Living on the wild side
We all need to work together to ensure access to the amazing opportunities the Bow Valley provides, and to base our decisions on solid scientific data in order to meet the needs of the wildlife and the people that live here. Knowing that this beautiful valley is under pressure from increased recreational traffic and development, we will all have to dig deep and be flexible, even willing to change some of our behaviours if needed. This challenge is definitely not for the faint of heart!
Hiking, biking and trail running with wildlife in mind
When you're out on the trails, remember that you are sharing SPACE with wildlife. Here's some information to keep in mind before you head out.
Always remain on designated trails.
It's best to stay out of the wildlife corridors, but there are some trails that cut across them. Generally, it's not recommended that you travel the full length of a wildlife corridor, and preferably, trails are intentionally built to cut across corridors quickly to get you where you're going.
Seasonal and temporary trail closures might be put in place for public safety reasons or when wildlife are most sensitive to people (i.e. early spring when bears are emerging from their dens, during berry season, or during the fall for elk mating season). Respect all closures and warnings by choosing another area to hike, bike, run, etc.
If you spot an animal, resist the urge to get close for a photo or turn your back to take a selfie with the animal. Take photos from a safe distance and move on quickly to protect yourself and the animal.
Dogs should be kept on a leash at all times, unless you are in a designated off-leash area. Negative interactions between dogs and wildlife often end with the animal's relocation by parks staff (which results in about a 50% survival rate) or the wild one being put to death.
For more safety tips on how to deal with specific wildlife, see the boxes below.
What if I come across a bear, cougar or elk on the trails?
How do I Avoid a run-in with a bear?
Bears are very sensitive to our activity. Your best defence is to avoid encounters in the first place. Here's some tips:
Respect warnings and closures: change plans if you come across a closed area or a "bear in area" sign.
Carry bear spray: Know how to use it.
Make noise: Let the bears know you're coming. Call out 'Hey Bear,' sing or talk loudly.
Watch for signs: If you see tracks, scat, diggings, torn-up logs or turned-over rocks, those are all signs of bear activity. Leave the area if it looks fresh.
Keep your dog on a leash or leave it at home: Dogs can lead to defensive behaviour in bears.
Hike in a group of four or more: Large groups have proven to be less likely to have a serious bear encounter. Keep children close to you.
Stay on official trails: They're busier. Travel in daylight.
Dead animals: If you see or smell a dead animal, leave the area and report it to park staff.
What about Cougars, Wolves or Coyotes?
Seeing a wolf or a cougar can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but it's important to keep your distance.
Stay at least 100 metres — or 10 bus lengths — away.
Never entice a wild animal to come closer.
If you are approached by a cougar, wolf or coyote, it's best to act aggressively. Stomp your feet, yell, throw something or use your pepper spray.
Pick up small children immediately. Stand your ground, but never jump toward the animal. Do not run.
By acting aggressively, you reduce the risk to yourself and others. It also prevents the animal from getting too used to people.
All encounters with bears, wolves or cougars in Canmore should be reported to Alberta Parks at 403-591-7755. If you are in Banff National Park, call the warden's office at 403-762-1470
How Do I prevent Problems with Elk?
Elk can be aggressive and attack without warning. Do not approach the animals in any season as they can be dangerous.
Keep a safe distance: Stay at least 30 metres away from elk or deer for your own safety.
Watch for signs: If an elk becomes nervous, it will grind its teeth or send its ears back. You're too close. Back off.
Stay inside your vehicle: Use binoculars or telephoto lens to get a closer look. It's best to be in a vehicle to take any photographs.
Don't approach the animal: Never feed any wildlife, including elk or deer.
Never get in the middle of a herd of elk: A female elk can be protective of her offspring. It's best to never get between any herd of elk.
Respect wildlife closures: Some areas may be closed at certain times of year to give elk space for giving birth to calves or mating. Stay out of any closed areas.
Simple guidelines for sharing multi-use trails in the Bow Valley
Hey guys, it's the polite police here. We know there seem to be a lot of rules 'round these parts, but they exist for a good reason: the well-being of our local wildlife and the future of our forests and mountain landscape.
SHARE THE TRAIL: In addition to respecting wildlife, it's important for trail users to respect each other. Mountain bikers should yield to walkers, hikers and runners. Everyone should make room for horses. It's also important to remember that trail users all have their own interests + goals for being outside.
KIDS: Keep them close. Let them be loud (they are outside, after all). Their voices and laughter can warn other users and wildlife that you are coming down the trail.
DOGS: Dogs are allowed on most trails, but it's illegal not to have your dog on a leash throughout Canmore, the surrounding habitat patches, and in both provincial and national parks. Dogs can attract or disturb wildlife — particularly bears, but also ground-nesting birds — so keep your pet close. Leashes shouldn't be more than 2.1 metres in length.
NOISE: DO make yourself heard. Your own voice is always best. DON'T rely on loud music from your iPhone or stereo on the trails. It is not effective to keep bears away and instead, it makes you less aware of your surroundings and can annoy others seeking a nature experience. Bear bells are also not recommended by wildlife experts.
LITTER: Practice the leave-no-trace ethic. Make sure you pack out whatever you've packed in, including dog poop!
TRAIL USE: Stay on the marked trail. Going off the trail not only impacts the plants along it, but where you step can also affect the larger ecosystem.
FOOTWEAR: Speaking of steps, avoid an embarrassing and costly rescue by wearing proper footwear on the trails. Flip-flops and Birkenstocks don't usually cut it on any trail with elevation gain.
PREPARATION: Make sure you are prepared for any change in weather or emergency. Carry a pack with water, rain gear and some warm clothes in case you get stuck in a storm or on a trail overnight.