Sharing the great outdoors with local wildlife

Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson says it's important to familiarize yourself with local wildlife in your region to avoid conflict.

  • Jul. 16, 2016 8:00 a.m.

Kelowna-Mission MLA Steven Thomson.

By Steven Thomson/Contributor

The summer is a great time for people to get out into the great outdoors.

It also means sharing these outdoor spaces with wildlife. There are a number of animals that live in our urban areas year-round – birds, squirrels and raccoons – and for the most part, we have become familiar with living alongside these animals and we keep them and ourselves safe.

This may involve simple things like tidying up your yard of any trash or food that might attract an unwanted visit from them. The same practices may not come as natural to us as we head out into our parks and wilderness areas.

So it’s important to familiarize yourself with the wildlife in your region as a good way to make sure you don’t inflict any undue harm. It’s common to hear stories of larger wildlife needing to be put down because they had become too aggressive or threatening to humans.

This is usually due to the animal being introduced to a human food source. If we can eliminate these types of human-wildlife conflicts we can make life safer for all of us.

There are numerous guides and manuals available that outline the laws for hunting and fishing, but there are also laws and guidelines that generally pertain to how the greater public should interact with wildlife.

As factors such as urban expansion, climate change, and habitat change affect wildlife we are always mindful of the impact these have and we need to work at helping animals that are directly affected. This requires a combination of educating the public about wildlife and their habitats and proper wildlife management.

To learn more about the wildlife in your area or areas you plan to visit, local guide outfitters can be a big help in providing you with information and resources.

Through the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, we have created the Wildlife Program Plan. This plan is meant to maintain our wildlife populations, work to restore certain populations and habitats as well as protect others at risk.

There is a wealth of historic knowledge that our First Nations have regarding the native plants and animals found in B.C. and it is this knowledge that has been a huge help in the creation our Wildlife Program Plan. There are also many new scientific methods like GPS tracking and new mapping techniques that are used to help us better understand animal populations, and we are employing these as we carry out our plan.

It is also great to educate children about sharing the outdoors with animals. Providing a good foundation to build on their knowledge will make certain they develop good habits, as they get older. It is ultimately everyone’s responsibility to work at maintaining the harmony between humans and wildlife. We need to recognize there are simple ways we can respect the habitats of our wildlife. Awareness is the best way we can help protect the environment and the wildlife that live in it.

Steve Thomson is the Liberal MLA for Kelowna-Mission and the cabinet minister for Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

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