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Editorial: Sharing with wapiti

Peter Shokeir | editor@fitzhugh.ca

When walking along the trails ringing the town, it’s not uncommon to see elk grazing on the grass, lounging beneath the shade or wandering around aimlessly.

These ungulates typically congregate on the outskirts of town or along the northern end of Connaught Drive, but they may venture into residential areas and even downtown.

From what I’ve been told, elk like to use the town as a shield against predators and have become habituated to humans.

Many people enjoy looking at these creatures and even like the idea of sharing a space with them, resulting in a bizarre symbiotic relationship.

A common consequence of this phenomenon is the droppings that are frequently left on sidewalks and lawns.

This issue can be literally brushed aside, but more worrisome is the inevitable clash between wildlife and humans, whether it is a giddy tourist getting too close in order to take a photo or an elk wandering down the roadway and being struck by a car.

The seemingly docile elk can be quite aggressive, especially during calving season (which began recently) when females defend their young.

In addition, male elk are highly belligerent during the fall mating season.

According to Parks Canada, a number of people are injured by park elk each year, and as the population increases around the townsite, many of these creatures are relocated to other parts of the park and province.

This elk situation isn’t new to Jasper, but people can’t let themselves become habituated too.

Humans should not approach any elk closer than 30 metres and watch closely for any aggressive signs, including raised ears, glaring looks, snorting and stamping.

So long as we are sharing with wapiti, vigilance is key.

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