A recent camping trip to Elk Island Nation Park provided this volunteer with a reminder of why it is important to maintain a safe distance from, and avoid feeding, wildlife. It is also essential to ensure that campsites are kept bare this season.
We were excited to see a wide variety of animals in the park including bison, deer, geese, great blue herons, American white pelicans, a very protective mother grouse (luckily we had made sure to keep a safe distance), and a beaver.
Most exhibited the elusive characteristics of wildlife that fill us with awe and delight at the brief moments we’re afforded to witness their charm. However, we were harassed by an unrelenting red squirrel which had lost any trepidation toward humans; presumably because others had fed him. Try as we might, we could not get any peace from this tiny troublesome terror. We put all the food away and refused to feed him, but he never relented. He even blocked our path to the washroom, and forced us to go around him having not paid the toll in food scraps. Another camper also reported that the squirrel had nipped his young daughter when he got into a bag of rice they were about to cook when she tried to take the package away.
While it may seem like we are doing animals a favour by giving them a little food here and there we are actually doing more harm than good. Animals may become dependent on humans, may not get the required nutrition, and may continue to enter risky situations to gain access to food. Feeding them also puts people in danger of being scratched, bitten (or worse), by animals that may carry serious diseases.
The best way to make sure there are wild animals for you and others to witness when you venture into Canada’s vast wilderness, is to keep your distance and keep your food to yourself!
By: S. Ruddock, Volunteer Writer.