Rules and Regulations in the Canadian Rockies National Parks

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Written by Patrick J. Smith posted on Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

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Staying out of trouble while having a great time in the Canadian Rockies

Soak up all the beautiful scenery while helping to protect the Canadian Rockies for future use.

Soak up all the beautiful scenery while helping to protect the Canadian Rockies for future use.

I was talking with a park ranger in Banff National Park the other day and she was telling me they’d had a word with some campers who hadn’t picked up all of their garbage.

I’m not going to name any names; this isn’t that kind of blog. The vast majority of folks are decent people who want to do right by the parks they’re visiting, and I’m the last person to say otherwise.

But it never hurts, every once in a while, to go over some of the rules and responsibilities visitors must abide by when they vacation here. I know the parks’ personnel would sure appreciate it. It’s not that they have a problem; they just like their visitors to have as much information as possible.

First and foremost, pick up after yourself. Hey, it’s what got the mountain man started on this in the first place. I know most of you already do anyway. Kinda hard not to, I think, when you’re surrounded by the truly spectacular scenery of the Canadian Rockies. There’s something about that pristine wonder that makes sullying it with refuse unthinkable.

All right, here’s one the parks’ people wanted me to emphasize. It is against Canadian law for visitors to collect or remove any natural objects or anything that might be considered an historical artifact from a national park.

So, leave those antlers alone. Don’t even pick up the rocks. No picking berries or wildflowers, either. Mushrooms, wood pieces, anything that catches your eye. It belongs where you saw it. This is one of the reasons you have to bring a camera. If you see something that strikes you that powerfully, take a picture. Pictures are welcome! But the objects in question, they’re part of the park. They’re not yours. Besides, if you pick it up now, the next person who comes along would be deprived. That’s not fair.

Here’s the other big one: Please DO NOT feed the animals. No matter how cute they might be. Yes, I know, some critters, like birds and squirrels, are very, very cute. And you think it would be beautiful to entice them into coming closer.

It wouldn’t be. Not only is it illegal, it’s not fair to the animals. They aren’t pets. They aren’t zoo displays, either. They don’t get regular feedings. They have to rely on themselves to eat. All you do, when you feed them, is teach them to take handouts from humans. That actually harms them in the long run because then they don’t take care of themselves as well.

Also, it seems more and more people are bringing their pets along on their vacations. Fine by me. The mountain man’s home feels lonely without a few critters hanging about the place. But the things that could pose a threat to humans are a much greater danger to your pets. Bears, coyotes, wolves … even elk and deer can kill a pet.

If you want to bring your furry friend along, no problem. But keep him or her on a leash at all times. It’s safer for you and for your friend.

The last big one I want to mention is this: Keep your food in tear-proof packaged containers or inside your vehicles. A lot of animals can smell much better than we humans can. Bears are famous for it. If they smell food, they’ll come looking for it.

I love bears, as I know I’ve mentioned before, but I love them at a distance. So will you. An up close and personal introduction is getting a bit too close to nature. So keep the food tightly wrapped, and don’t tempt the locals.

There. Those aren’t hard rules to follow, are they? I didn’t think so. And when you come vacation up here in the Canadian Rockies, you’ll find that just following those simple rules will lead to a truly unforgettable and wonderful experience.

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