Peter Mather

the benefits of prevention

Many of us enjoy seeing wildlife. We are delighted when a fox meanders through the backyard, a coyote crosses the road and the birds are at the feeder. We bring binoculars and cameras on our outings, hoping to spot a furry friend. Many tourism industries are designed around wildlife viewing. 

Most animals will get used to (habituated) to humans and human developments if they get close even once or twice without a negative outcome. That's why you see the fox, who is VERY good at not being seen, in the yard. Once the animal is habituated it may become quite bold. That's when you see the fox lying in your vegetable patch having a nap after raiding the vole population that was living underneath it. And the bear helping itself to your chickens, compost and garbage. This is a little too close for most peoples' comfort. Wildlife that gets a reward from your yard (or the dump etc etc.) has become food conditioned and is now a danger to humans. Bears, for example, may defend a resource aggressively when they find one.

Reacting to these situations is often time consuming and a drain on government funds which could be directed towards conservation and education. So preventing this situation is the key to coexisting peacefully with wildlife! Simple, yes? Here are some tips that help prevent negative encounters.

1. Attractant management is key. Garbage, compost, petroleum products, feed, livestock and food grown in our gardens are all wildlife attractants. Our own mess is the biggest contributor to human-wildlife conflict. Waste management is a shared responsibility. We can make sure attractants are not accessible on our own properties and we can encourage municipalities to create and maintain wildlife friendly waste management systems. Electric fencing is inexpensive, easy to install and saves replacing valuable feed and livestock and prevents destruction of wildlife. Scroll down to find a backyard checklist that will help you manage attractants on your property and information about electric fencing.

2. Keep your distance. Wildlife viewing can be interesting and fun. We are tempted to stop and take photos on the side of the road or even when we encounter an animal along the trail. Please keep your encounters brief and maintain as much distance as possible. Don't get out of your car to take that photo and when you encounter a bear on the trail, back away and tell the bear you are leaving; this is not a good time to take a photo.

3. Don't feed the wildlife! Leaving food out for foxes and other animals is a death sentence for them and asking for trouble for you. Conservation Officers may issue a Dangerous Wildlife Protection Order if they determine that you are not managing attractants on your property appropriately. Scroll down the page for more information about how to make your yard safe.

4. Travel through wilderness areas carefully and consciously. When you are exploring wilderness areas you are likely to encounter animals. Plan on it. Pack all food and cosmetics in bear proof canisters. Cook food far from your sleeping area and don't sleep in clothes you have cooked in. Carry bear spray and know how to use it.