Guest opinion: Park City must act now to protect the area’s wildlife
Park City High School junior
Park City is known for outdoor activities like skiing, hiking and mountain biking. These activities attract many people from all over the world. With an abundance of people on the trails and in the mountains, interactions with wildlife are inevitable. Because wildlife is so common here, people often treat them as they would their housepets. Many problems can stem from these behaviors, especially as it is becoming increasingly more common.
In Park City, one of the biggest issues wildlife faces is being fed human food. Oftentimes people rationalize feeding animals because, “It’s just a little bit of food, it can’t be that bad.” This rationalization is fundamentally incorrect. Feeding animals harms not only the animal but in some cases people, too. The National Park Service explains why — “Normally docile animals that become accustomed to being fed lose their respect/natural wariness for people and can become dangerously aggressive. A young mule deer buck gored and killed a small child in Yosemite when the boy refused to relinquish his sandwich to the deer. Even though he was doing the right thing, that child died a cruel senseless death because too many people mistakenly thought, “feeding wild animals doesn’t really do any harm.” Unfortunately, many people do not know these consequences and continue feeding wildlife. I believe the problem could be solved by creating new laws to prevent people from feeding wildlife. There are already such laws in places like the Adirondacks, where a person can be fined for feeding deer, moose and bear. Lamentably, feeding wildlife is just the tip of the iceberg.
Overdevelopment is another big issue in Park City which frequently causes problems with wildlife. Generally, wildlife like to keep their distance from humans. However, with rapidly growing development around Summit County, that may not be possible anymore. In Katmai National Park, infrastructure has taken priority over wildlife. Katmai Is located in a remote corner of the Alaskan wilderness. If overdevelopment can happen there, it surely could happen here. A publication by The Wildlife News shows this: “Over the years the tourist infrastructure has incrementally expanded to include a campground, living quarters for park staff, a visitor center, and landing facilities for floatplanes — all within prime bear habitat. According to bear biologist Dr. Barrie Gilbert, there is no other comparable development in prime bear habitat anyplace in the world.” Now, Park City may not have a prime bear habitat, but it is prime habitat nonetheless. We might not see the effects of new development on wildlife currently, but I guarantee we will in 30 years.
Many animals that reside in Park City are migratory, and when infrastructure eventually blocks their ancient paths, they may no longer survive. The World Wildlife Fund states that roads, fences and other development can fragment habitat and drive species to extinction. As a result, I think the ever-growing development of Park City in places like Discovery Ridge, Highland Flats, and Kimball Junction should be slowed down. If we do slow down, we might even see a boost to our local ecosystem! However, this is just conjecture.
With the large influx of new residents to Park City, many from areas absent of wildlife, practices like feeding wildlife and overdevelopment may become all too common. As our community changes, we should be more mindful of wild animals and not take for granted that they will always be there. We should treat them with respect and always give them their distance. In conclusion, Park City can improve human-wildlife relations, we just need to act sooner rather than later.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Park City and Summit County make the Park Record's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
“I am concerned with reliance on the information coming from the ‘professional consultants’ without challenging or exploring the critical underlying assumptions driving their analyses,” writes Old Town resident David Gordon about the proposed PCMR project.