Parks Canada offers guidelines on Christmas lights to keep wildlife safe


“We usually have at least a few tangles each season with deer running around with lights on,” said Eric Knight, human-wildlife coexistence specialist at Banff National Park.

BANFF – Businesses and residents alike are urged to keep wildlife in mind when decorating homes for the holidays.

Parks Canada has developed some simple guidelines to help prevent elk or deer from tangling in Christmas lights and decorations, which can lead to strangulation and death in the most severe cases.

Wildlife experts suggest delaying the installation of lights and outdoor decorations until after November 30, when the deer breeding season is almost over, or making sure lights are hung at least 10 feet away. from the ground or fixed if they are suspended lower.

“We usually have at least a few tangles each season with deer running around with lights on,” said Eric Knight, human-wildlife coexistence specialist at Banff National Park.

“If the animal is lucky, it is just a nuisance and does not interfere with its movement and health, but some of these entanglements can be more serious and have a much worse outcome for the animal.”

Last fall, the bull elk had Christmas lights hanging from its antlers and a week later a mule deer was spotted in a residential yard with festive lights tangled in its antlers.

The Banff Wildlife Team grabbed and immobilized the two animals in order to extinguish the Christmas lights. Both animals were able to recover relatively quickly and escape without any injury.

During the breeding season, elk and male deer are more aggressive and lively, rubbing against trees, marking their territories and showing dominance.

Knight said it can lead to tangles if there are hanging decorations or lighting on the trees.

Beyond the mess of lights tangled in the woods, Knight said a garland of lights can wrap around an animal’s neck and severely cut it or lead to strangulation.

“In some cases, animals will have several meters of rope behind them, and when moving through the landscape, they can get caught in vegetation to the point of hindering the movement of the animal or even causing entrapment. “, did he declare. noted.

“The worst case scenario is that the animal is in a location where it is not very visible to the public and that animal could die a very slow and poor death, unable to move from its location due to of the entanglement. “

Occasionally, the Banff National Park Wildlife Team receives a report and the animal can be chemically immobilized so that the lights can be safely removed.

But Knight said it was not without risk for the animal and the staff.

“Prevention is the key to fostering coexistence between humans and wildlife,” he said. “Everyone has a responsibility and a role to play.

With that in mind, there are ways for residents and businesses to help keep wildlife safe during the holiday season.

Parks Canada suggests that residents take a tour of their property to check for any potential risk of entanglement with wildlife.

“It’s not just Christmas lights. We’ve seen animals get entangled in hammocks, ropes, cables, floating fences, tarps, tomato trellis, ”Knight said.

“There are deer and coyotes that have buckets on their heads, so it can be all kinds of different things that can cause entanglement issues and risks.”

In addition, Parks Canada recommends putting timers on Christmas lights from an energy conservation perspective.

“If you limit the lights to a period of time at dusk, you’re not going to interfere with nocturnal species like owls,” Knight said.

Parks requests that sightings of wildlife entanglements be reported immediately to the Banff Dispatch at 403-762-1470