Canada’s national parks are gateways to nature, adventure and discovery. The chance to observe wildlife as they go about their natural lives is one of the most fascinating experiences that Canada’s national parks offer. Along with this opportunity, however, comes the responsibility to treat wildlife with the respect they deserve and need.

Maintaining healthy boundaries between people and wildlife results in improved safety for both visitors and wildlife.

1. Learn about the wildlife in the park you will be visiting

A Parks Canada employee at a desk is pointing a map to visitors.
Parks Canada staff member helping visitors in Pacific Rim National Park.

Each of Canada’s national parks is home to different wildlife species. Find out what species live in the national park you will be visiting. Check the park website before you leave or go to the visitor information kiosk or desk to ask for information about appropriate behaviour in the park and up-to-date advisories.

Did you know? Parks Canada manages 46 national parks and one national urban park from coast to coast to coast. These protected areas are home to thousands of different species of mammals, birds, reptiles, plants and other wildlife.

2. Feed yourself, but not wildlife

A small rodent nibbles an acorn in the midst of autumn leaves.
Feeding wildlife is never allowed.

Feeding wild animals causes them to become food conditioned, which is dangerous for them and for you. It can cause them to lose their fear of people and their ability to find their own food sources, and to become increasingly aggressive towards people in seeking out non-natural foods.

Did you know? Feeding wildlife in a national park is illegal and you can be charged (up to $25,000) under the Canada National Parks Act. This includes feeding them directly, by handing them food, or indirectly, by leaving garbage behind for them to find.

3. Keep your dog on a leash!

Two persons are walking barefoot on a beach bathed by the sea with a dog on a leash.
Visitors walk with their dog on the beach in Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site.

We know how much you love Fido, but keep him on a leash and under control and this will keep him safe. Dogs can cause some wild animals to feel threatened and become agitated or aggressive. Every year, Parks Canada sees a number of incidents where off-leash dogs are injured – a situation that could likely have been avoided.

Did you know? Studies have shown that dogs off-leash are one of the biggest causes of human-wildlife conflict.

4. Keep your campsite clean

A group of friends is sitting on camping chairs and roasting marshmallows on a camp fire at night.
Eating is a big part of the fun! But keep it clean to be safe.

When camping, always store wildlife attractants like food, garbage, dishes and toiletries in designated wildlife-proof containers. Your appropriate, respectful behaviour will contribute to a healthy, functioning ecosystem.

Did you know? If a bear becomes conditioned to human food, he/she will likely return to the same location and may aggressively seek out human food. So don’t be the one who created a problem for the next camper.

5. Hike during the day – travel in groups

A group of women is hiking on a narrow trail in a grassy valley.
Hiking with friends and family is always better!

For your safety, always hike during the day and check the weather and trail conditions before leaving. Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. For the best experience, take water and a snack, and wear sturdy shoes.

Did you know? A group of three or more is safer than travelling by yourself.

6. Make noise

Three hikers jumping up before a large rock on a bright sunny day.
Don’t be afraid to make some noise while enjoying nature! 

Wild animals don’t like surprises! Talking loudly, clapping, blowing a whistle or singing lets them know you are coming, and gives them time to get out of the way.

Did you know? Carrying a whistle can be a useful (and inexpensive) way of avoiding wildlife surprises.

7. Keep a safe distance from wildlife

Visitor holds up a phone to take a picture of wildlife just outside his/her car.
Take photos from the safety of your vehicle if possible.

Stay at least 30 m away from large animals and 100 m away from bears. Approaching wildlife or allowing wildlife to approach you for any reason can lead them to losing their natural wariness of people. Once habituated, they are at greater risk of becoming food conditioned, struck by traffic and other unfortunate outcomes that put them at risk.

Bring your binoculars, or a telephoto lens to capture that once-in-a-lifetime photo of a wild animal in its natural environment.

Did you know? If you are close enough to get a selfie, then you are already way too close.

8. Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings

A man and a woman are hiking in a lush forest of ferns and trees.
Hiking on Lyall Creek Trail in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.

Take notice of any signs that wildlife may be present, such as tracks, scat, or evidence of foraging. There is no substitute for staying alert, especially in the backcountry where help may be far away.

Did you know? You can contact local Parks Canada staff before you go hiking to help you know what signs to look for on the trails.

9. Carry bear spray

A person is pulling a bear spray canister from a small backpack resting on the ground.
Carry bear spray and have it handy to use - just in case!

When hiking, camping or going out for a jog along a trail, bear spray is an effective deterrent if used properly. Always carry you bear spray and… know how to use it!

Did you know? Bear spray contains capsaicin – a chemical found in chili peppers. It irritates an animal’s eyes and skin and could affect breathing but the spray is not lethal.

10. Stay on designated trails and respect all signage

A group of three friends is hiking in line on a trail crossing a pine forest.
Visitors hiking the trail to Fairy Meadows in the Cirque of Unclimbables, Nahanni National Park Reserve.

Parks Canada maintains or restores the ecological integrity of our parks. Be a model visitor! Always stay on designated trails and find out about closures from Parks Canada staff in advance. Be prepared to adjust your travel plans if necessary.

Did you know? Closures often occur because of wildlife sightings and possible risks to visitors. Closures protect both wildlife and people and are put in place for your personal safety.