A wolf baited with human food over the weekend in Banff National Park has prompted a warning from Parks Canada to wildlife photographers.
On Sunday, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook, a park warden patrolling near Moose Meadows along the Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy. 1A) spotted a wolf feeding on a turkey carcass and a turkey stew alongside the road.
Nearby, several photographers in parked cars were taking pictures of the feeding wolf and several other members of the seven-member wolf pack.
“No one seemed to have any information as to how the human food got there, but they were all taking photos of the wolves,” Steve Michel, human/wildlife conflict specialist with Banff National Park, told the Calgary Herald.
Michel told the Calgary Sun it appeared the food had been put out intentionally to attract wildlife.
“This is very disturbing for us," he said, adding park officials have not had to destroy wolves in over a decade, but the last time it was required was because the wolves developed a taste for human food.
If the photographers did indeed bait the wolves with human food, it is considered "unethical and unacceptable," Michel told The Sun, not to mention illegal.
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Kevin Van Tighem, author of The Homeward Wolf, a book about the unethical practices use by some wildlife photographers, told The Outlook he thinks the photographers should be charged.
The danger, he said, is when wolves become habituated to humans and human food they are not "just hanging around looking for food, not just ignoring people, but approaching people.
"Once a carnivore associates people with food, that safe relationship between the two species is out the door because of irresponsible, unethical and fundamentally selfish behaviour by people."
According to Parks Canada's rules and regulations, "photographers who travel the park in search of good photo opportunities have a special responsibility to wildlife and fellow visitors," and no one should try to entice wildlife with food.
No charges have been laid, but anyone with information is asked to contact the parks department.
The maximum fine for harassing or feeding an animal is $25,000.
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