Administrators in the Town of Banff are taking some steps to control the number of human-wildlife interactions on the townsite to ensure everyone is safe at all times.

A new bylaw aims to ban bird feeders, fruit trees and off-leash dogs to make sure that animals in the park avoid the townsite altogether.

Darren Ens, manager of Development Services with the Town of Banff, says the idea behind it is simple.

“The goal is to minimize negative interactions between humans and wildlife in the Bow Valley and certainly, by keeping wildlife out of developed areas, that minimizes the chances of a negative encounter.”

Experts say that artificial food sources like fruit trees and bird feeders don’t always present a problem when deer and elk come to feed. It’s the predators who come looking for the grazing animals that are the real concern.

“They attract other forms of wildlife as well, such as deer and elk, which aren’t a huge problem but they attract predators like wolves and residents of Banff are currently very sympathetic to the plight of wolves in the park,” said Chris Fisher, professional biologist and author of the book Birds of Alberta.

Fisher says that given that fact and how complex wildlife issues are in the park, it’s best to remove those attractants.

“Given the complexities of the conservation issues currently in Banff National Park, it’s probably the best idea to remove attractants like feeders and fruit trees in the town site.”

Many residents in the Town of Banff fully understand the need for such a bylaw.

“We do get the point for wildlife conflict. There’s elk, there’s deer and there’s coyotes. We live in the national park, so there is always wildlife around,” said Lindsay, a Banff resident. “If there’s a deer, it depends on the temperament of the dog and there is a domino effect from there.”

Other residents say some of the other rules in the bylaw, those that will require pets to be on leash are a bit troublesome.

One woman who lives on the very outskirts of the townsite and it’s a long way for her to go to get to the current off-leash park.

“For me to be able to take my dog and go someplace where he can just run around, is very difficult. The town seems to be very hesitant about developing an off-leash park on the south side of the river.”

She still wants to see some boundaries and a good area for dogs to get some exercise put in place in town.

“I would like some good space, a decent amount of space for large dogs to be able to run around and burn off some energy.”

Fisher adds there won’t be any sort of impact on birds at all when the artificial food sources are eventually taken away.

“Birds are tremendously adaptable. In a place like Banff National Park, they’re not really hooked and dependent on the feeders. If these are removed, they’ll be able to find plenty of opportunities to feed in the surrounding forests,” he says, “While it will detract a little joy from the residents, the birds will do just fine without them.”

Both Jasper and Canmore townsites have already taken steps to remove bird feeders during the summertime to avoid unnecessarily attracting animals into town.

For now, Banff is looking for public input on the idea, but it will be on the council’s agenda in the spring.

(With files from Bill Macfarlane)