A provocative new billboard that features a predator chewing on plastic is earning some much needed attention along the Pacific Rim Highway.
The large sign shows a troubling image of a water bottle being clenched between a coastal wolf’s teeth next to the words ‘Human food kills wildlife.’
“It was definitely meant to be somewhat thought provoking. It’s a pretty intense image,” said the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve’s human-wildlife conflict specialist Todd Windle. “Hopefully it makes people think a little bit.”
The billboard is supplemented by roughly 25 smaller signs being installed throughout the Park Reserve to hammer home the message that leaving food unattended or feeding wildlife, leads to death.
“Keeping wildlife wild is a shared responsibility. Everybody has a role in that,” Windle said.
He added the smaller signs include information around how to coexist with local wildlife and what to do if you come upon a predator.
“We really tried to keep it simple,” he said. “There is a lot of messaging about wildlife but it starts with the basic of just letting people know that wolves, cougars and bears are here.”
He said the signs are part of a multi-faceted approach the Park Reserve is taking to educate its visitors on co-existing with wildlife.
“Until these signs have gone up, it’s been hard to find information on-site anywhere. Everything else has been, kind of, web-based or through other programs, which are also wonderful, but there was a bit of a void there so this is filling that gap,” he said.
He added that the new signs are also the start of a five-year ‘Wild about Wolves’ project aimed at promoting coexistence and reducing conflict between people and wolves.
“We’re really looking at a multifaceted, multidimensional approach, so looking at some of the classical ecological dimensions that contribute but also looking at what we call the human dimensions so people’s beliefs, attitudes and values around wolves,” he said.
“We’re also working with First Nations elders on traditional knowledge and what they can share and teach us, because they’ve been coexisting with wolves for thousands of years. We’re pretty excited to get going on this project. I think it’s extremely timely and needed.”
Windle acknowledged that there has been a troubling rise in wildlife interactions, particularly involving wolves, in recent years and said the Park Reserve is focused on increasing awareness and knowledge among visitors to cut down on the attractants that can lead to habituation among the species.
“Ecologically they’re a very important species. They’re a keystone predator. They help keep the ecosystem in check. They’re a symbol of wilderness and part of why people want to live here and come here as tourists to have that wild feel. Spiritually and culturally, wolves are a significant species to the Nuu chah nulth Nations and to non Nuu chah nulth people as well,” he said. “They’re amazing animals on so many different levels and, certainly from the National Park Reserve’s perspective, the maintenance of ecological integrity and the restoration of ecological integrity is a primary part of our mandate, so it’s important for us.”
The highway billboard cost the Park Reserve roughly $33,000 and the creation and installation of the roughly 25 smaller signs cost approximately $1,500 per sign, according to Parks Canada spokesperson Laura Judson.