Bringing your canine family member to Jasper National Park
Meet David Argument. He’s Jasper National Park’s Resource Conservation Manager, in charge of a large team of experts that manage and protect Jasper National Park’s wildlife and their surrounding environment. If there’s anyone who knows a thing or two about the potential impacts of an off-leash dog in a park, it’s him! Jasper can be an amazing place to escape with four-legged friends, provided dog owners follow some simple advice and straightforward rules. And if it helps to know – Dave owns a dog too.
This content is offered in partnership with Parks Canada
What’s the most important thing to know about visiting Jasper National Park with your dog?
No matter how cute, little and fluffy your dog might be, to most species of wildlife, your dog looks, acts, and smells like a predator. In fact, all dogs are descended from predators. To larger species of wildlife, as adorable as your canine companion may be, your dog represents a danger, and the wildlife will feel like potential prey. When you visit a national park, you are visiting the home of wildlife, and all wildlife, no matter the species, are protected in these special places.
With this in mind, as a visitor, you should think about the impact you’re having, and whether you really need to bring your dog everywhere you go. Additionally, you stand a far better chance of seeing wildlife if you leave your dog at home. If you do bring your dog, then it needs to be under physical control at all times to minimize potential impacts to wildlife and to avoid putting your dog’s welfare at risk.
Where’s a good place to go with your canine companion?
Some hiking trails and places are actually restricted, and dogs are not permitted. This includes alpine hikes in caribou country and some of the park’s busiest beaches. Some wildlife are very sensitive and can sense your pets from a long, long distance away. However, most trails in the valley bottom around Jasper townsite, and picnic areas and lakes and rivers, are dog friendly. There are even a couple of dog-friendly beaches!
If you plan to bring your dog along, it’s best to visit places which are less busy and congested and to use established official trails. Pick up after your pooch when nature calls and discard those bags properly in a garbage can. Keep your distance from wildlife at all times and keep your dog under control. You’re likely to see elk, deer, bighorn sheep and even bears during your travels, including in picnic areas and campgrounds so, if you’re in doubt about your dog, make simple choices of where to go.
What health and safety precautions should you think about when camping with your dog (keeping them safe from wildlife, insects, fire safety, first aid, etc.)?
The most important consideration when visiting national parks with your pets is the understanding that you’re visiting wildlife in their homes, and in their environment. As pet owners, it’s important to keep in mind we have to do everything we can to keep wildlife safe from our pets, which means keeping dogs under physical control to reduce the stress they cause wildlife, and to reduce the chance of negative interactions. When we do this, we also improve our ability to keep our pets safe from wildlife.
Off-leash dogs stand a far better chance of getting into conflict with wildlife – whether that’s chasing, sticking their nose into dens or burrows, or tangling with a porcupine or coyote. One of the biggest risks with pets in bear country is a loose dog annoying a bear. Once your dog realizes they are unable to take on a bear, they will invariably run back to their human, and they may bring that bear in pursuit. We’ve had bears, wolves, cougars and coyotes kill or injure dogs, and it’s almost always when the dog is not under physical control. This almost always results in a negative outcome for the wildlife as they typically need to be destroyed.
What can you do to make a visit to Jasper National Park more comfortable for your dog?
Based on Dave’s experience camping with dogs, he suggests the following:
- Don’t leave your dog staked out overnight. If you’re at a drive-in campground, your dog should be in the vehicle. If you’re tenting, it’s recommended to bring your dog into the tent with you. There is too much potential for a dog to have a negative interaction with wildlife if it’s left outside overnight.
- During the day, mind how you stake out your dog. Long cables will just get wrapped around trees, picnic tables, fire pits and legs.
- Dog food should only be put out for a brief period, and anything uneaten should be stowed away from other animals. This applies even if your dog is used to “free feeding” at home. Dog food left out will attract wildlife to your campsite, which can result in habituation of wildlife to supplied foods, wildlife health issues, and safety issues for you and your dog.
What can you as a dog owner do to ensure you’re respectful of other park visitors?
Dogs pick up many cues from their owners. One of the best things you can do to calm your dog is to inform yourself about the park you’re visiting, and get comfortable with the potential hazards you might encounter, so you can stay calm and collected yourself; this will rub off on the dog.
In terms of being respectful of other visitors, it is essential to respect areas that are closed to dogs, to keep them on a leash and under physical control at all times, and to make sure you pick up your dog’s droppings. Nothing upsets non-dog people more than uncontrolled dogs, and having to navigate the “gifts” that get left behind on the trail.
If you have a vocal dog, you should be aware of other visitors and your impacts on them. Barking dogs can really damage or disturb the “wilderness experience” and the peace and quiet many people seek when they visit a national park.
In spite of some of these challenges, visiting Jasper National Park with a dog can be a rewarding experience. With a little research, planning, and knowing your dog, a trip to this amazing place can go very smoothly. For more information on visiting Jasper National Park, visit the Parks Canada website: http://www.pc.gc.ca/jasper.