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Elk Island National Park warns visitors: stay at least 100m from bison

Elk Island National Park is warning visitors about safe bison viewing habits: if you’re inside your vehicle and a bison appears within 100 metres of where you’re parked or driving, stay inside your vehicle. Exiting your vehicle within the 100 metre range of bison is forbidden as a restricted activity within the park and doing so carries with it a fine.

“It’s a big concern here, people exiting their vehicles and getting way too close.” said Dale Kirkland, the superintendent of the park.

“It comes down to, you know, us here just unfortunately seeing many occurrences of visitors exiting their vehicles.”

“We’ve had injuries here the last number of years, where a defensive bison simply got too close to people,” Kirkland warned.

Park visitors who violate the restriction to stay inside of their vehicles when within the 100 metre range of bison could be fined under the Canada National Parks Act with a maximum penalty of $25,000.

“The chance to observe bison here as they go about their natural lives is one of the most fascinating experiences here at Elk Island. However, with that, there are risks associated with wildlife viewing and we’ve seen some occurrences where our visitors are simply getting too close to bison.” Kirkland reiterated.

“If you encounter a bison while hiking, just for example, we recommend you don’t try and approach or scare them away. You make the bison aware of your presence by simply making noise while maintaining a safe distance.

“We also say to look for signs of stress in the bison, like a raised tail, or snorts, or head shaking, pawing on the ground, or an attentive gaze or stare that the bison might give you. If a bison starts to display any of these signs of stress, just return to where to came from and start to back away slowly,” Kirkland suggested.

“Visitor safety is the most important for us here, Parks Canada and we’re always asking the visitors to do their part by making good, informed, decisions when visiting here at Elk Island.” Kirkland said.

Otherwise, Kirkland said, come to the park, open year-round, have fun, and be prepared with the proper attire, equipment, snacks and water to suit the type of activities and amount of time planned for your trip to the park.

“We are reminding visitors to make sure they are fully prepared for whatever activities you may choose to participate in here at Elk Island National Park.”

Visitors are advised to check for park safety bulletins posted to the Elk Island website.

Coming up, Kirkland reminds readers that the next big experience going on at the park is the Snowshoe and Stargaze program, which opens for registration on November 21. The guided tours will occur on eleven consecutive Saturdays starting December 9 and finishing February 17 from 7:00 p.m. until 9 p.m. with the aim of enjoying the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve on a guided 3 km (return) snowshoe hike around the shore of Astotin Lake to Beaver Bay.

The popular event books up fast, Kirkland said. Registration is required and will be managed by telephone and email on Tuesdays and Thursdays, according to Elk Island National Park website. Call 780-992-2965 or email interp.elkisland@pc.gc.ca to save your spot.

Above: A bull wood bison walks through deep snow in an aspen forest (Parks Canada)
Below: the featured image shows two young women enjoying the view of bison grazing in the distance (Parks Canada)