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Visitors being reminded to keep safe distance after deer cornered in Banff


Visitors being reminded to keep safe distance after deer cornered in Banff

by Clara Ho, Calgary Herald

It weighs more than 200 pounds, sports sharp, pointy antlers, and can bolt at a moment’s notice — but that didn’t stop a group of people from cornering a mule deer in the town of Banff on Friday.

About six people were seen getting close to the animal near the Silver Dragon Chinese Restaurant on Spray Avenue in the mountain town, holding a camera while standing just steps away from the large ungulate.

Tyler McClure, education outreach co-ordinator with Bow Valley WildSmart, said this is a situation that could have ended badly and is reminding people not to approach wildlife in the area.

“They’re big giant animals with big giant antlers,” McClure said Saturday. “They could do a lot of damage.”

The deer in Banff, often spotted along Banff Avenue amid traffic and visitors, are used to having people around and usually move through the townsite nonchalantly, he said.

As a result, some people believe the animals are tame and go near them without hesitation, McClure said, adding: “They think they’re like animals in a petting zoo.”

“But they can spontaneously run into the middle of the road,” he continued. “They are unpredictable, they are wild. They have the potential to hurt us and we have the potential to hurt them.”

Just a month ago, two wolves chased and killed a deer in the middle of the townsite, prompting parks officials to remind residents and visitors to take proper precautions throughout the year.

“You never know when you’re going to encounter wildlife,” McClure said. “The best thing is to avoid it.”

A tourist stands perilously close to an elk on Spray Avenue outside the Silver Dragon Chinese Cuisine restaurant in Banff on Friday September 18, 2015.
A tourist stands perilously close to a mule deer on Spray Avenue in Banff. Ted Rhodes / Calgary Herald

McClure says it’s a good time to reinforce the message that people need to keep a safe distance away from wildlife, particularly as the elk mating season begins.

“The males are very hormonal and extra unpredictable and they could charge without warning,” he said, adding people should keep at least 30 metres — or three bus lengths — away from elk in the area.

McClure says he regularly sees people posting photos of themselves too dangerously close to wildlife, adding these situations usually involve visitors, people from out of province or out of country who may not understand the safety risks. He said it all comes down to education.

“We could definitely up our game, reaching them before they arrive,” he said.

He encourages visitors not to approach animals, to give them a wild berth, to keep their dogs on leashes, and to report the sighting to Banff dispatch at 403-762-1470. If pursued by an animal, people can use bear spray or position themselves behind a large sturdy object, such as a tree or a vehicle.

Mayor Karen Sorensen said this is something that has occurred in Banff for a number of years.

“We always caution our visitors to please keep your distance from wildlife,” Sorensen said.

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