Friday, July 3, 2009

Help Keep Wildlife Wild!

Photo (c) Dave Stiles, used with permission
 Announcing: The 1st Annual Keep Wildlife Wild Weekend at Mount Rainier National Park!What do gray jays in the picnic area, red foxes at Narada Falls, and black bears in the campground have in common? They are all part of Mount Rainier's extraordinary and diverse wildlife population, and they are all at risk due to feeding by park visitors!

Join us on July 25 to help spread the word about the importance of keeping wildlife wild. With the help of volunteers, we will focus on wildlife protection, observation and education.

Feeding wildlife--even by leaving food and trash unsecured for animals to find--creates unnatural behaviors in animals called food-conditioning. Once an animal is food-conditioned it begins to seek out people to beg and steal human food from. This behavior is unhealthy for the animals and puts them at risk of injury and starvation. The park currently has many food-conditioned animals including deer, chipmunk, squirrels, birds, bears and foxes, some of which have been killed trying to crossing roads to obtain food.

Mount Rainier is dedicated to protecting wildlife by educating visitors on the important reasons why feeding or approaching wildlife is harmful and dangerous--and you can help in a very meaningful way! Mount Rainier National Park’s Keep Wildlife Wild Weekend gives volunteers a chance for active resource stewardship through education and observation.

The day will begin at the park's Education Center (click here for a map) at 9:00 a.m. with a short orientation by park staff. Park biologists will give information on wildlife feeding, proper food storage and native wildlife species. Interpretive rangers will give tips on creative communication techniques. Volunteers will be given data sheets to collect important information on wildlife observed as well as to document incidents of wildlife feeding or food-conditioned behavior. This information will be used by biologists to address wildlife feeding in the park.

Groups will be assigned different stations throughout the park where wildlife is at risk for being fed by visitors. At each station, volunteers will have the important task of educating visitors about the dangers of feeding wildlife through handouts and verbal communication. Volunteers will rotate through the different stations to give them the opportunity to explore wildlife protection in different areas of the park.

After the work day, volunteers may gather for a recap on the event and to share stories and celebratory pizza in the park’s Community Building (map). Camping is also available for volunteers in the Longmire Campground either Friday or Saturday night.

To RSVP, visit our event page at Join Mount Rainier in helping to keep wildlife wild!

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