Overstuffed garbage bins and dishevelled day-use areas in Kananaskis Country are causing officials to again grow concerned, worrying the situation could become dangerous for both humans and wildlife.
COVID-19 health restrictions that curb travel and limit indoor social gatherings are thought to be responsible for an increase in visitors to the recreation area west of Calgary – but just like last year, people aren’t disposing of their garbage properly.
Trash can be seen cluttering areas beside garbage bins, piled beside already-full ones or even balanced on top of them.
John Paczkowski from Alberta Parks described the situation as “an ongoing challenge.”
“Since 2020, we’ve seen a big increase in visitation to the parks, which is great. People are getting out and getting exercise — visitation rates have gone up almost 45 per cent — but with that, people are coming out and they bring all their stuff and we’re seeing some garbage issues,” John Paczkowski said.
“We’re seeing huge volumes of garbage. Not just a bit of unsightly litter, we’re seeing garbage piled in heaps — pickup truck loads — beside garbage bins, bins overflowing and sometimes the bins aren’t even full and people are just leaving their garbage out and the big concern is that wildlife is going to get into that garbage.”
Kananaskis Country is an area of about 4,000 square kilometres and encompasses several parks, campgrounds and an ecological reserve.
Most of the garbage issues are, according to Alberta Parks, in the day-use areas.
In order to address the issue, Alberta Parks has doubled up on garbage collections
“We’re just asking people to do their part,” Paczkowski said.
“All of the garbage management systems here are bear proof or wildlife proof — which means wildlife can’t get into them — and for some people that’s a new device, a new way to dispose of garbage.”
Paczkowski cautioned if wildlife starts to access that garbage that’s been left, officials have to “manage them a little more assertively.”
He said bears can become “food-conditioned,” and begin actively seeking out food from humans.
“When bears become food-conditioned and start approaching people looking for food, there have been a number of unfortunate circumstances where we’ve had to euthanize that animal. The behaviour becomes so concerning and a public safety risk that the animal has to be euthanized.
“By not putting your garbage away, you can put that wildlife you’re out here to see in danger.”
If for some reason the bin is overflowing or you can’t dispose of your garbage safely, he suggests taking it somewhere else to get rid of it.
“Bring an extra bag, take it to another bin — or even take it home with you. If everyone helps out just a little bit, we can avoid any of these problems.”
If you spot a full overstuffed garbage bin you can call Kananaskis Emergency Services at 403-591-7755.
– With files from Tracy Nagai, Global News