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Posted on: June 18, 2021

Banff keeps dogs from becoming cougar snacks

cougar snack news

The Town of Banff has launched an information campaign and started construction of a new park to prevent pets from becoming food for wildlife, while protecting humans, and saving carnivores that make the Rockies their natural home. 

To help achieve a goal of zero incidents of human conflicts with large carnivores in the townsite and zero wildlife relocations or euthanized carnivores, the Town of Banff is urging residents to keep dogs on leash everywhere, except when attended in their private enclosed yards or in designated dog parks, such as the new fenced park being built at the Banff Recreation Grounds this summer. 

“Banff National Park is home to wildlife like bears, cougars, coyotes and wolves, and they are always on the lookout for food. If provided an easy meal – like a wandering dog – carnivores will keep coming into town,” said Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen. “When they do, they put themselves at risk because they could be relocated or even euthanized if they get into conflict with humans. That’s a tragedy and one we can prevent.”

“Animal instinct is no match for human carelessness. Banff residents have a responsibility to prevent conflict with wildlife because we are guests in the national park and we must protect the inhabitants that make this place special.”

Unleashed dogs stress wildlife

Even the most obedient dogs may harass wildlife to protect their humans. Off-leash dogs can trigger aggressive behaviour in bears, coyotes, cougars and elk. A dog running loose may bring back an agitated animal to the dog owner or other people nearby, resulting in an attack. 

Wildlife may take advantage of a resident only momentarily failing to leash their pet. As recently as January this year, cougars were reported by several dog-walkers in town, but luckily the leashed pets did not lead to conflict.

“Our education campaign is designed to shock and grab attention, because there are still long-time residents who are complacent about protecting wildlife; there are still people who let their dogs roam off leash,” said Sorensen. “In Banff, there’s wildlife and there’s humans, and one of us should know better.”

Banff municipal enforcement officers will hand out leashes to some residents with dogs on leash as a thank you for keeping wildlife safe, as well as to some dog owners who may have forgotten their dog leash, instead of issuing a ticket that carries a $100 fine in the townsite. In Banff National Park the maximum fine for disturbing wildlife is $25,000.

Banff Recreation Grounds Renewal

To provide residents with opportunities to let their dogs run free for more exercise, the Town of Banff is constructing a second off-leash dog park enclosure at the Banff Recreation Grounds. The dog park is one element in a multi-year renewal of the recreation area, involving a $3.2 million investment in 2021. 

The dog park is slated to open in September. The existing dog park is located at the north end of town in the Industrial District.

“I am really happy to see this dog park finally being added so residents on the south side of Banff have a safe place to let their dogs play with other dogs and run and chase, only minutes from their homes,” said Sorensen.

Other elements of the 2021 Recreation Grounds Renewal include a new irrigation system for the ball diamonds and fields, rehabilitation of the track and expansion of the sports field, renovations on the protection shelter, and a realignment and enhancement of the horse trail and pedestrian/cycling trails. 

The work builds on $2.3 million spent in 2016-2020 on projects such as the addition of a skateboard park, a new nature playground, the addition of a second community greenhouse, and the relocation and restoration of a heritage cabin for recreation programs. Projects in 2022 include adding a muti-purpose pavilion, a toboggan hill, a skating rink, resurfacing the basketball court and trail connections with the new pedestrian bridge. Total spending for 2021-2025 is earmarked at approximately $9.9 million.

Wildlife protection measures enhanced

Banff Town Council adopted a goal of zero incidents of conflicts with large carnivores in the townsite and zero wildlife relocations or destruction due to incidents in the townsite. The goal sparked the public education campaign on off-leash dogs, and will involve other topical campaigns identified at KeepWildlifeAlive.ca

The Town of Banff is changing bylaws, adding business requirements, making planning changes and launching public education campaigns to avoid human-wildlife conflict. This public education program in partnership with the Town of Canmore was spawned by a task force working to improve human-wildlife coexistence in the Bow Valley. 

Organizations involved in the task force include the towns of Banff and Canmore, Banff National Park, Alberta Environment and Parks, and advisors from the Wildsmart Community Program, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. One of the major reasons for the new collaboration and additional measures was the tragic death of Grizzly Bear 148 in 2017. 

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