Keeping the Wild in Wildlife — Canada’s Greatest Summer Job

Keeping the Wild in Wildlife — Canada’s Greatest Summer Job

Jasper National Park Known as much for its world-class beauty, as for the wealth of wildlife viewing opportunities. It is these uncountable animal viewings in the park that create a challenge for Parks Canada staff who are responsible for human and animal safety. Jasper National Park recieves nearly 2 million visitors annually, and many of these visitors come hoping for even a glimpse of the wildlife the Canadian Rockies are so famous for. At first sight of wildlife, many people rush out of their cars and come way too close to unpredictable and potentially dangerous animals without thinking twice. This uneasy relationship is the reason Jasper National Park has created a unique strategy based on programs in other mountain parks. The wildlife guardians have a vital role in maintaining people’s and animals’ safety by ensuring that people stay a safe distance and the animals stay wild. The main reason we started the wildlife guardian program was to give people wildlife viewing opportunity. It used to be that we were not allowing anyone to stop and get out of their car to look at the wildlife so when an animal, for example a bear, was spotted on the side of the road they were hazing the bear away. So people were quite mad because they had been waiting so long to see this bear and all of a sudden he is gone. So now we allow them to take time to look at the animal, take photos, and we are there to answer any questions if they don’t know what they are looking at or if they have any questions about the wildlife. These animals are definitely enchanting and the reason many people come to the park, so the wildlife guardians have a unique strategy emphasizing education rather than enforcement. Education aspect is talking about the habitat that the animals live in, what the important food sources are, and why they are grazing at the side of the road like they are, so going over some of the foods that they find there. We want people to view wildlife, but we want them to view wildlife in a safe way. So they head out to find some wildlife jams. We spend most of the day patrolling, taking GPS coordinates of any sightings of animals that we come across and dealing with those situations as they become jams. They drive for hours without any sightings, meaning they are missing important opportunities to protect animals and provide information to wildlife viewers. Oh, here we go. Finally their luck turns. It’s a mother black bear and her cubs and people have left their cars for a closer look. The guardians must act fast. Excuse me folks, you’ll need to get back in your vehicles! You guys are way too close. It can run up to 55 kilometres per hour and they can be quite aggressive when there is cubs around. The viewers get back in their cars and the chance to watch this mother and cubs doesn’t escape anyone. With people back in their cars, both humans and animals win. People are safe and the animals retain their cherished wildness. I think its a benefit to the people of Jasper and the animals of Jasper, as well as the visitors who get a better chance at seeing the wildlife they’ve come so far to see. We are there to give them information about what they are seeing, and plus we allow them to take great photos of the wildlife. It might be the highlight of their vacation in Jasper National Park.

9 thoughts on “Keeping the Wild in Wildlife — Canada’s Greatest Summer Job

  1. This is great to see. Although I would think the guardians would need a high degree of patience! Good on you for taking on ths job to protect ourselves from ourselves.

  2. ok but for woodsman , animals are part of the same wild life and have to lern to respect nature and play by the animal ruels

  3. A few years back I was in Jasper just walking by the road a short distance (a few metres from my car) and taking some pictures of the plants and trees when I look down there were two baby cubs almost at my feet. I was freaking out but I stayed quiet and slowly walked to my car. If the momma bear had seen me she would have been very angry. They were beautiful baby bears but I never want to be so close again. It was a surreal experience and a scary one.  

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