The wonderful photos of the rare Whistler moose circulating late last week had us all cooing at the wonder of our natural surroundings and sharing them through social media.
Appreciating wildlife and even having nature in our backyards is something we all experience here in this valley, but do we really all need to go and see it
The attention photographer Geoff Jansen’s photo received went all the way to the daily papers in Vancouver and the result was a traffic jam and weekend-long crowd gathered in the area where the moose was spotted.
This presents a bit of a quandary for us community newspaper types, with one Facebook comment going up on The Question page stating: “People need to stop making this poor creature famous, it will end up like Jeanie the Bear.”
The insinuation being that by talking about, and posting photos of this moose, we are thus putting it at risk. While it is a valid point to be made, this head in the sand mentality promotes ignoring problems or issues and keeping them quiet instead of taking the opportunity to have a discussion as a community on what is appropriate.
The cause and effect in this situation cannot be quite as straightforward as that, because by highlighting the presence of wildlife as a media outlet, we can also engage in public education efforts.
Our front page story this week highlights that with conservation officers reminding everyone to not approach the moose. But more importantly, and disturbing to us, was the reminder for people to keep their dogs on leash around this wild animal and indeed around all wild animals.
The Whistler attitude about dogs on leash is laissez-faire to say the least. It doesn’t seem to be an issue, unlike other mountain resorts where conservationists concerned with the effect on wildlife are practically militant in their enforcement of leash regulations.
But when we hear about people taking their dogs off leash around this moose, which we have dubbed affectionately the Spruce Moose, and those dogs then chase the animal — well then that is a prime example of irresponsible pet ownership and a total disregard for the safety of wildlife. While it may be novel and nice to drive on down and watch the moose in the tiny piece of habitat it has carved out in Whistler, if the moose is harassed to the point of reacting and conflict occurs, it is the moose that will suffer, not us.
So while some people think writing stories or publishing pictures creates these situations, our efforts are aimed at preventing them through education. Enjoy this moment of connection with nature by looking at the photograph, instead of driving down to the place and taking part in an unnecessary and potentially harmful moose jam, the lesser known cousin of the unfortunate bear jams that also occur.
Also, share this message of respecting nature through keeping your distance so we don’t see the moose in our headlines again.