National parks could do more to prevent tourist-wildlife close calls, photographer says

Greg Harvey has seen plenty of people get too close to wildlife.

"People do all kinds of stupid things, and unfortunately there"s a cure for a lot of things, but there"s not a cure for stupid," Harvey told CBC Radio"s Edmonton AM.

Harvey said many of the people who get too close to animals are tourists who may not know any better — and that"s where national parks staff comes in.

"I would love to see information brochures specifically on responsible wildlife viewing," Harvey said, adding that visitors entering the park should be told to stay in their vehicles around wildlife.

But many visitors do know better, he said, referring to those who have been to parks before and still opt to exit their vehicles for photographs.

"The other demographic is just stupid people that don"t care," Harvey said.

Greg Harvey is a wildlife photographer based in Edmonton. (Perter Jucker/Jucki Wildlife Photography)

It"s illegal to feed, entice or disturb any wildlife in a national park, and people who commit offences could face fines up to $25,000.

But the law is rarely enforced, Harvey said.

"Safari tours"

Harvey suggested the parks encourage more "safari tours" — which are essentially tours led by a local guide.

Though the guides are more expensive, they often result in better viewing, as the wildlife are in their natural habitat with few people around.

"That"s really the way wildlife should be viewed anyway — there should be more wildlife than people," Harvey said.

Harvey said he could drive to a national park every weekend and still not get the quality of photos as he could in one weekend guided by a professional.

The tours host only a few people at a time — and since people are paying for it, they"re often more respectful, Harvey said. People whisper, don"t make loud noises and keep a respectful distance.

Jasper National Park"s wildlife guardians facilitate animal watching, working to ensure both people and wildlife stay safe. 3:00

This leaves wildlife more at ease, making the whole experience safer, he said.

"[The wildlife] are habituated to people in a way that is respectful because you"re with a guide, there are five people on foot and we all move as a group," he said.

He said wildlife in Jasper and Banff known to frequent roadways are more dangerous.

"They have to deal with people slamming their car doors and flanking them and trying to get selfies and honking horns, and they get irritated because people are disrespectful," Harvey said.

"When you"re on a safari with a professional tour, people aren"t disrespectful or they"ll kick you out."



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