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  • Winter Activities and Their Impact on Wildlife

    July 03, 2024 3 min read

    Wild Rabbit by ErikaWittlieb

    Winter Activities and Their Impact on Wildlife

    Written by Claudia Wex

    Most of us often call the mountains our second home (maybe even a first for some of us). It’s a place we go to hang out with friends and family, somewhere we can escape to after a long day of work. Here at Paradise, our team tries to get out there as much as we can year round! 

    Do you know who also calls the mountains their home? You guessed it - animals and other wildlife. With the increase of backcountry winter sports, It’s crucial to consider that although we love partaking in activities like snowmobiling, skiing and boarding, these activities can also disturb wildlife. We could potentially be forcing these habitats to seek out new places to eat and live - causing them great stress. Animals and wildlife are already facing greater difficulties due to climate change, we don’t want to be adding to this with our love for winter activities.

    Even if you’re not backcountry skiing and boarding, unfortunately, you can still be taking part in affecting wildlife. The construction and maintenance of ski resorts involve a lot of changes to be made to the natural land. Think about it, you need to clear the land for slopes, build various lodges and ski lifts as well as create artificial snow. Often wildlife will be disturbed during this process and all of these activities require a significant amount of energy which poses additional negative effects on the environment.

    In saying all this, we’re not trying to tell you that you shouldn’t participate in winter activities. What we are trying to say is that we need to be cautious of our other friends, whose homes are also on the mountains. This can be done by ensuring we are taking the right precautions when being out there and minimizing the disturbances we make to wildlife. If you’re interested in reading further on how to plan a winter recreation trip safely, you can do so by clicking here

    These are a few rules to be mindful of when being out in the mountains: 

    • Never approach, chase or harm any wildlife. Imagine you being on the hill and animals would just run at you and always bother you… kind of scary right? 
    • Make sure you stay on established trails or in areas of high visibility where no wildlife is present. 
    • Leave tracks, not trash. Ensure you take your rubbish with you and are properly disposing of everything. 
    • When on a motorized vehicle in an open area, try to keep a distance of 500 meters away from large animals. For non-motorized activities like skiing and boarding, make sure you stay at least 100 meters away. 
    • Avoid damaging vegetation. There area number of unique species home to the mountain ecosystem and we need to ensure we are not disturbing it.
    Wild Elk in Alberta

    It’s important to follow these recommendations and set a good example for other fellow skiers and boarders. If we are not respecting wildlife’s homes, they then go on alert. This causes them to have to take crucial actions which takes time and energy.

    Other Important notes:

    • If animals feel they need to flee from the disturbance, they may have no better options but to settle in a new area that is far from optimal. Think about having to flee your house to settle in a more dangerous neighbourhood with less food and greater competition around you. 
    • A particular species we need to be careful around is Elk. Alberta’s mountains are home to Elk and If you’ve been to Lake Louise, maybe you’ve seen one! Adult male elk are often in poor condition as the winter begins. This is because many of them may have sustained injuries from taking part in rutting activities in the fall. The quality of their winter habitat may determine whether some males survive the season. This is why it is a good idea to proceed with caution and not disturb their habitats.  
    • While you may not think a single disturbance is significant, consider the impact and stress of multiple interactions with individuals partaking in their winter activities. This can add up quickly so be sure to be cautious when being on the mountains.

    By following the stated recommendations and considering the implications of disturbed wildlife, there is no reason we can’t enjoy being out in the Mountains. Are you interested in taking a further initiative to help protect our wildlife? Check out the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals where you can donate to save a desperate animal and read more about the causes they support. 

    Would you like to safetly see a grizzly bear on a ski resort?? Check out the Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Interpretive Centre! This 20-acre refuge is home to Boo the grizzly! Open daily during the summer. 

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