Parks Canada warns about illegal fires, start of elk rutting season in Banff National Park

A Bull Elk is seen in the woods in Elk Island National Park east of Edmonton.

Parks Canada is expressing concerns over the high number of illegal fires throughout Banff National Park this summer, especially because of the extreme risk of wildfires.

This summer, Parks Canada staff have seen more illegal fires in the national park than in previous years, a press release from the federal agency says. They are reminding visitors to the park to keep campfires small, in designated pits, completely extinguish the fires and properly dispose of cigarettes.

“Given that the fire danger has been alternating between high and extreme, it is imperative that the public follows fire safety guidelines, including those for how to have a safe campfire while in the national park,” says Parks Canada.

“Parks Canada is a leader in fire management and the safety of the public, our crews, park infrastructure, and neighbouring lands is always of the utmost importance.”

The extra care and precaution of visitors to the park should extend to the Park’s wildlife, as well.

Parks Canada is also alerting

visitors that elk rutting season has begun and will last until mid-October.

Elk are particularly dangerous during rutting season so people are encouraged to stay at least 30 metres away from all elk, never get between male and female elk and not to park vehicles between male and female elk.

“Bull elk become extremely aggressive protecting their harems during the mating season,” says Parks Canada. “Elk may charge at your vehicle, which may result in damage.”

During elk rutting season, people should travel in a group, carry bear spray or an umbrella, watch for elk at all times and go out of their way to detour around them. It’s best to walk around elk on the high side of a slope or up-hill while keeping at least 30 metres of distance from them.

People with dogs should keep them on a leash at all times because an unleashed dog could be seen as a predator, like a wolf or a coyote, causing the elk to become extremely aggressive.

If an elk gets too close or becomes aggressive, the best things to do are act dominant, raise arms or a big object  — like the umbrella — to make yourself look big. It’s important to maintain eye contact and never turn to face away from the elk, Parks Canada says.

“Playing dead” is one of the worst things a person can do so if knocked down, a person should get up and move to cover or use something to protect one’s self.

“Climb a tree or keep an object, like a tree or large rock, between you and the elk. Back slowly out of the area. Warn other hikers of an elk ahead and report the incident immediately to Parks Canada dispatch,” says Parks Canada.

Incidents can be reported to the Resource Conservation office at 403-762-1470.

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