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Online lessons educate public about wildlife

The tiny avatars of Goya Geller and Sam Bennett (lower left) offered huge educational moments during last week’s Wild for Wildlife program, presented as an episode of EPL Presents. | Screenshot image

Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter |

Learning the differences between a fox, a coyote and a wolf was just one facet of Wild for Wildlife, an online video lesson that took place last week.

The lesson was presented by Parks Canada staff and hosted by the Edmonton Public Library (EPL) for a new episode of the EPL Presents series.

Goya Geller from Parks Canada’s Learn-to Camp team linked in from her home in Saskatchewan, while her co-presenter Sam Bennett was based out of his home in Fort Saskatchewan.

“We work to teach about Canada’s nature and history,” Geller said at the beginning of the 70-minute family-friendly presentation.

“Wildlife doesn’t just include animals. It does include plants,” she added. “If you’ve seen a wild rose, that would count as wildlife.”

With that, the two held court for an unspecified number of participants all watching the livestream. The lively lessons included such topics of discussion as wildlife safety, wildlife in the parks, how to see wildlife, keeping wildlife wild and invasive species.

For instance, Goya explained the rule of thumb when it comes to wild animals viewing out in nature.

“When we are going into our national parks, usually we want to see wildlife because they’re super cool and interesting and fun. We do want to make sure that we’re seeing them at a safe distance, both for their safety and for our safety.”

Goya noted there was a basic rule of thumb if someone wants to determine if they are a safe distance from wildlife.

“I would extend my right hand so that it’s fully straight and then I would try and cover whatever animal I’m looking at with my thumb. If I can completely cover the animal with my thumb, then I’m almost certainly at a safe distance.”

If a person can still see the animal around their thumb, they are not a safe distance from wildlife.

“We definitely want to distance ourselves by slowly backing up and keeping our eyes on the animals,” Goya said.

Bennet also provided information on the differences between foxes, coyotes and wolves.

“They may look similar but there are some key differences to watch out for,” Bennett said. “The biggest obvious difference is size.”

Foxes are the smallest at three to four feet in length, coyotes come in slightly larger between four and five feet and wolves can grow to six feet for females and 6.5 feet for males. There are colour differences in their fur too.

Other lessons included how to deal with ticks and how the Tamarack is a unique conifer in that it loses its needles in the autumn.

Learn-to Camp presentations help young outdoors people to pick up all kinds of camping skills and nature lessons, everything from how to easily start a fire to setting up a tarp. It sets up pop-up campsites at municipal parks, beaches, libraries and special events for people to participate in activities that introduce them to camping. It also offers at-home activities.

The library is teaming up for another Parks Canada Wild for Wildlife online presentation that is designed for beginner English Language Learners (CLB 1-3).

The presentation will be on July 28 at 11 a.m. An ‘Unlimited Wetland Tour’ will be presented by Ducks Unlimited on Wednesday, August 24 at 2 p.m. Registration is free for both events – and others – at
For other Learn-to Camp events and activities, some for children as young as four, people can visit

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