A bison and its calf roam in a section of the Elk Island National Park.
Parks Canada / Supplied
Love is in the air at Elk Island National Park — but it’s not as harmless as a regular summer fling.As the bison mating “rut” season begins, park staff are urging visitors to take extra care around the animals who may be more likely to be aggressive during this time.“While this time can be an exciting wildlife viewing opportunity, we are asking that visitors be bison wise, especially during the rut,” states a Wednesday news release from Parks Canada. “During the rut, bison bulls are more aggressive and less cautious of vehicles and people.”Bulls compete for cows during the rut and may charge, wallow, bellow, snort and shake their heads more than usual to attract a mate.Ecologist team leader Jonathan DeMoor at the park says dangerous incidents with bison, like the recent one captured on video in Yellowstone National Park, are very rare, but a “small handful” of “bison-jams” and other minor encounters do happen on busy days at the park.“It’s a busy time of year and the more people that come to the park, that’s great, but it certainly increases the chances of people not knowing what is a safe distance to stay from bison,” said DeMoor on Thursday.Parks Canada advises visitors in vehicles who come across bison to drive slowly, wait for bison to move out of the way if they are on the road, and stop for a short while to view the bison only when it is safe to do so. Attacks on vehicles are rare, says the release, but they do occur.For park visitors on foot or on bicycle, Parks Canada urges the “rule of thumb” to ensure at least 100 metres is between them and a bison at all times. Visitors can tell whether they are far enough by extending their arms to see if their outstretched thumb covers the bison. If it does not, they are too close.As well, visitors should keep their wits about them, approach blind corners slowly, and not wear earplugs or headphones while walking through the park. Cyclists should never ride through a herd and should pair with vehicles to pass bison in the ditch.Loud noises such as car horns and clapping should not be used to scare or chase the bison away. When startled, bison often run away, stop and then turn around. Visitors should either wait for the bison to move and then pass slowly, leaving enough room for the bison to escape, or slowly back away.“We just ask that when people do visit, that they show the animals that respect and allow them to go about their normal natural behaviours, while also keeping themselves safe the whole time,” said DeMoor.Visitors can access further information at the Parks Canada firstname.lastname@example.org/moirawyton