This is not a picture of a jolly elk. This unfortunate beast became seriously entangled in someone’s holiday decorations a few years ago. | Parks CanadaScott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

As we hang our stockings from the chimney with care, perhaps we should also take the same care when hanging our holiday decorations in our yard.

After all, the ungulates don’t celebrate the season the same way that we do. They can get entangled in string lights that droop as they drape from branch to branch.

“We do periodically see all wildlife, but especially elk and deer, with their antlers entangled,” said Dave Argument, resource conservation manager with Jasper National Park. 

“The Christmas lights are clearly a risk. What people do with their lights can have a big impact.”

The human-wildlife conflict and coexistence team receives reports on one to two ungulate entanglements each year. This includes situations that resolve themselves without further action. 

Occasionally, festive light entanglements do require wildlife officers to take action.

“If it’s relatively serious entanglement then we will immobilize the animal – chemical tranquilizer dart approach – and either remove the entanglement or have to remove the antlers as the case may be,” Argument said.

“But all those activities represent a lot of risk to the animal and to the staff that have to deal with it.”

Otherwise, entanglements can still stress animals unnecessarily. This is why Parks Canada ties up all the swings at local playgrounds during the fall rut. 

While Christmas lights are probably one of the most obvious sources of risk during this season, Argument added, there are other forms of decoration that can pose serious problems for wildlife as well. A few years ago, an elk attacked an inflatable decoration on a resident’s lawn.

Stressing wildlife is most likely not the intent of most people who have such decorations. A little more care is all that is needed to keep the season merry and bright for all. Argument said he wasn’t trying to spoil anyone’s season.

“It makes me feel a little bit like a Grinch. I’m not saying don’t hang your Christmas lights, but there are some approaches that can reduce that risk. I’m not trying to reduce the festive spirit at all.”

By Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Dec 06, 2023 at 06:00

This item reprinted with permission from    The Fitzhugh    Jasper, Alberta

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