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The Rockies.Life Staff

Monty Pylon: Parks Canada’s Weapon Against Wildlife Jams!

Parks Canada recently placed pylons on Highway 93 near a clearing where a grizzly bear was seen snacking

When wildlife fences aren’t feasible, Parks Canada has another tool for preventing wildlife traffic jams: pylons.

Yes, the same pylons you dribbled soccer balls around as a kid or stole from construction sites when you were drunk. 

Parks Canada crew putting up pylons to prevent motorists from stopping on Highway 93
Parks Canada crew putting up pylons to prevent motorists from stopping on Highway 93 | Scott Hayes | St. Albert Gazette

The agency’s use of pylons is nothing new. 

When the need arises, the agency’s Human-Wildlife Coexistence Team places the pylons to prevent motorists from stopping in that location. 

The team places pylons in areas where wildlife frequents to prevent people from stopping on the road to take pictures or interact with the animals. Getting close to a wild animal is never a good idea. 

Life isn’t a Disney movie, and Bambi is likelier to knock your teeth out with its hind legs than let you pet it. 

Not stopping on a road or keeping your distance from wildlife should be common sense, but you would be surprised. 

In 2014, Banff National Park had its hands full, responding to 1,250 wildlife-related occurrences. 

“These are calls that required attention from wildlife management staff to assess and manage the risks of conflict between wildlife and people,” Tania Peters, Parks Canada spokesperson, told the Calgary Herald

In 2015, park visitors were caught on camera feeding a black bear along Highway 93 North in Banff National Park. 

Black bears are cute but still predators capable of running 30 miles per hour. To put things into perspective, Usain Bolt, the fastest human alive, can run just over 27 miles per hour.

An average person can run about 18 miles per hour. If a black bear decides it wants more than a snack, odds are you’re toast. 

“They’re also habituating the bear, so getting them used to vehicles and getting them comfortable being on the road, and what happens is they end up getting killed on the road by vehicles,” said Jim Mamalis, park warden supervisor in the Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay field unit for Parks Canada.

Tourists feeding a black bear in Banff National Park
Tourists feeding a black bear in Banff National Park | Parks Canada | Calgary Herald

The Pylon Play

Most recently, Parks Canada deployed pylons on Highway 93 near a clearing where a grizzly bear was seen snacking on a patch of forage. 

The area is especially vulnerable to traffic because it is close to a bridge over the Miette River, where the roadway narrows and the shoulders thin out. 

A few years ago, Parks Canada was pulling its hair out dealing with traffic in the area caused by a pair of courting grizzly bears along the highway. 

A tourist taking a selfie with an elk in Banff National Park | unofficialnetworks .com

Many motorists stopped on the road to watch the amorous bears, causing what is commonly referred to as a bear jam

However, pylons aren’t just used to prevent motorists from stopping on the highway.

The agency also uses pylons to warn motorists of unexpected conditions or redirect traffic, but a pylon can only do so much on its own. 

“There’s a motorist and visitor safety issue there with people driving poorly and behaving badly on the road, of course, but it also presents hazards to the wildlife involved,” Dave Argument, resource conservation manager with Jasper National Park, told Cochrane Eagle

Argument also reminds motorists that stopping on the highway or stopping on the shoulder for non-emergency purposes like a wildlife photo op is illegal on Highway 93

Interacting with wildlife, whether taking a picture of a bear or feeding a deer on the side of a highway, can have major consequences.

According to WildSmart program director Nick de Ruyter, interacting with wildlife can stress animals, change their eating and mating patterns, or cause them to run across a busy highway, leading to dangerous wildlife-vehicle collisions like the ones that recently happened in Yoho National Park. 

The opposite is also true.

A wild animal might associate the highway as a food source if it is frequently fed by motorists, increasing the likelihood of a collision or unwanted human-wildlife encounter. 

Parks Canada shouldn’t have to rely on pylons to stop people from parking their cars on the highway.

When passing wildlife, slow down for safety but do not stop. Be glad you had an opportunity to see some of our province’s wild critters.

Tourists cornering a mule deer in Banff to take a photo with the animal
Tourists cornering a mule deer in Banff to take a photo with the animal | Ted Rhodes | Calgary Herald

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