Parks Canada has outright banned the use or possession of VHF radio receivers in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks following suspicions people were using telemetry equipment to search for wildlife for photographs.
The restricted activity order, which came into effect on Aug. 10, means anyone caught using or possessing VHF telemetry devices to search or follow wildlife like wolves or bears could be charged and face a fine of up to $25,000 in court.
David Gummer, a wildlife ecologist with Banff National Park, said the restricted activity order was put in place to prevent disturbance, harassment and habitation of wildlife that are fitted with radio transmitters for management purposes.
“We haven’t charged anyone with following or searching for wildlife, but there have been some recent instances where the public was suspected of using telemetry for this purpose,” Gummer said.
“We want to communicate loud and clear that that’s not lawful under the National Parks Act and, ultimately, the aim is to try to reduce the potential for wildlife’s natural activities and natural behaviour to be affected.”
Parks Canada attaches radio or satellite collars to various wildlife species for management purposes. Animals such as grizzly bear 148, whose home range includes areas around the busy Banff townsite, are fitted with collars.
More recently, some members of the Bow Valley wolf pack were collared after they got a taste for human food and garbage irresponsibly left out by people, with some wolves becoming quite bold as a result.
“Our last resort management option is to capture, collar and try to manage that individual. That’s not intended to try and make it a target for members of the public to be able to follow them,” Gummer said.
“Some VHF equipment is quite readily available on the market, but even though it may be available, please remember national parks are a special place and don’t follow wildlife with it here.”
The restricted activity order also gives wardens more tools to be able to encourage compliance or lay charges.
While many wildlife photographers have high ethical standards, Parks Canada has suspected some have used telemetry devices to track wildlife, though Gummer said they “don’t necessarily know that to be the case.
“It’s also important for other members of the public to know that capturing fabulous images of wildlife in the park is a great opportunity, but needs to be done with lots of respect for wildlife.
“You are not allowed to approach or entice wildlife in the national park. If wildlife are responding to your presence or moving away, then you’re too close.”