Author: Tina Eckerlin
Most of us think of Leave No Trace as packing out our garbage. While this is a huge part of it, there is much more!
We are all human and sometimes make mistakes, or don't think about our actions long term. However, everything we do can have an effect on the world around us.
If you have been following our blog the last few weeks, you know that we decided to start 2023 with purpose! We decided to celebrate the New Year with a 7 week focused blog series on the 7 Leave No Trace Principles.
You probably already know that we are passionate about Leave No Trace (LNT). So much, that we partnered with Leave No Trace Canada to help promote, educate and advocate for good land stewardship.
Even if you are well versed in the 7 Principles, there is always room for improvement. Here at Terrain UL, we are trying to bring our LNT practices to the next level. We can always do better!
This week we will be exploring Principle 6. If you missed our last blogpost, you should check out Principle 5 - Minimize Campfire Impacts.
Unfortunately, I have seen too many backcountry enthusiasts interfering with the natural wildlife. When we do this we put them at risk, as well as ourselves. Let's learn how to respect wildlife!
Leave No Trace
Principle 6 - Respect Wildlife
The best way to appreciate wildlife is from a distance. We all want to catch a glimpse of a beautiful animal, but at what cost?
- Leave the field clear for the animals and observe them from a distance.
Animals may feel threatened by your presence and they generally try to avoid humans. However, if you are too close, it may disrupt their natural patterns and change their behaviour.
Water sources are particularly sensitive, especially at night. Always give wildlife plenty of space and avoid camping right at the shore. Don't forget to follow good LNT for human waste and waste water so we do not pollute or contaminate waterways.
Even from a distance, in most cases they know you are there and will try to avoid you while continuing on their way. Do not try to get in closer for a better picture or view. Just appreciate the fact that you were able to experience that moment.
- Move away at the first sign of nervousness or change in behaviour
Animals will let you know how they are feeling, but not with words. Before heading out, learn about the wildlife in the area and how to read their behaviour, body language and habits. This is important to keep both you and the animal safe.
For instance, how many videos have you seen on social media of people driving on a highway and driving really close to a moose or a bear to take a video? But then suddenly the animal turns and charges the vehicle?
Or ask people how to act during a bear attack? Do they know the difference between a grizzly bear and a black bear? They should, because how you behave is different in each situation. Do you know what to do if you get caught between a mother bear and her cubs?
- Avoid disturbing animals during sensitive breeding, nesting and calf rearing periods, or during winter
Certain times of year patterns and habits can change. Many animals may show dominant behaviour during breeding, birthing or hibernation. These important cycles are imperative to each species survival.
Also, it is important to note that animals can behave differently if they are sick or wounded. They may become more aggressive, or their flight or fight response may change put you at risk. If you encounter a sick or wounded animal it is recommended to contact the land manager.
To many animals have been destroyed or relocated from poor LNT practices. Unfortunately, this is our fault. We need to remember that we are in their home.
At some point in our lives, most of us have fed a cute chipmunk that was bold enough to come close enough to eat out of our hands.
- Refrain from feeding animals to avoid harming their health, altering their behaviour, or exposing them to predators or other hazards
Not only can human food be dangerous to their health and behaviour, they can start to cause damage or become a nuisance animal that needs to be controlled.
Most campsites I have been to I have had a chipmunk come in close waiting for food. I have even had them chew a hole in my bear bag while I was unpacking. Although this is not be physically dangerous, it is certainly a problem.
- Store food, garbage and other odorous products in a bear-proof barrel, bear food hang, in facilities provided on site such as a food locker/bin, or in car trunks
Not only should your food and trash be properly stored, but any body or odorous products, such as: sun screen, insect repellant and lip balm, need to be properly stored to avoid attracting wildlife.
Check with land managers or park system what types of food storage they require.
Ensure you follow good LNT practices by checking the campsite for waste, separating waste from hazardous waste and disposing of human waste and waste water properly. Check out Principle 3 - Dispose of Waste Properly for more details.
Many of us enjoy bringing our furry companions on adventures. This is great! Always check with the park managers if dogs are permitted.
I have visited too many campsites in the backcountry that were littered with dog feces all through the site, or had to listen to a dog barking all night.
As a dog owner of two fluffy beasts I understand that my dogs are friendly, but not everyone feels the same way. Moreover, dog feces is a real problem on the trail. It contains a lot of bacteria, viruses, parasites and other pathogens.
Wild animals defecate in the wild. However, their diets and scat work in a fine tuned balance with that particular ecosystem. Dog feces can increase bacteria, nitrogen and phosphorous levels in delicate water systems.
- Keep control of a pet or leave it safely at home. Pick up after your dog or bury it in a sanitary hole
In the backcountry, domestic animals need to be leashed and under control at all times. Although most of us love pups, not everyone does. It is important to allow others to experience nature the way they want.
Furthermore, free ranging dogs can chase and scare wildlife or even worse have a dire altercation with them. Be warned that Game Wardens can actually fine you if your animal is chasing game.
Let's keep the backcountry wild for everyone and follow Leave No Trace practices!
7 Principles of Leave No Trace
Do you have any great tips or tricks to help Leave No Trace?
Let us know in the comments below!