I went to Banff National Park this past weekend. Mostly I avoided popular places because Covid is raging in the province. But both times I ended up where people were, I saw people getting too close to wildlife and someone feeding or intending to feed the animals.
To me, this behaviour is evident of the disconnect between many people and nature. The fact that people don’t realize that these are wild animals who can be stressed out and harmed by people getting too close and offering them food of any sort is a problem.
I taught my cats to fist bump for food. As a result, they will now tap my hand when they’re hungry. With my cats, it’s cute. However, for wildlife, learned behaviours like associating people with food is potentially deadly. Rates of injury, prevalence of pathogens, levels of malnutrition, and levels of stress are all increased by tourist feeding (Murray et al, 2016).
I want to believe that nobody who is sneaking up for a photo or holding out a nut is intending to cause harm or risk their own injury. So, my question becomes, how can we reconnect people with the realities of wildlife and nature? My own thoughts are that Indigenous Knowledges are vital. We need to stop seeing ourselves as separate from nature. We are part of nature and we can have positive relationships that don’t centre on getting too close to snap a photo that you’ll probably forget about in a week or two.
So please stop. It isn’t worth your photo or the story you’ll tell.