What the Law Says
Flying a drone without a park approval may result in law enforcement action and a fine of up to $3,000. Parks Canada may authorize drone usage for special events or for certain non-recreational uses: e.g., natural and cultural resource management, public safety, law enforcement, and park/site management purposes. For each of these purposes, the operator will need permission from the Field Unit Superintendent and confirmation of compliance with Transport Canada’s requirements. Additionally, drone usage must be identified in the Film and Photography Permit application and/or the Research and Collection Permit application.
How Drone Usage Harms Wildlife
Studies in Minnesota have shown that drone presence occasionally affects the behavior of black bears and consistently raises their heart rates to high levels, indicating distress. In one instance, a drone substantially raised the heart rate of a female bear who had recently begun hibernation. A more self-evident negative consequence of drone usage occurs when they collide with birds, quite often killing the birds. In another instance, drone presence caused a herd of bighorn sheep in Utah’s Zion National Park to disperse, separating mothers from their calves. Drone usage in national parks is still a new phenomenon; however, the limited research conducted so far indicates a negative effect on wildlife.
Calgary Man First to be Fined
In December of 2017, Calgary resident Danny McEachren became the first visitor to be fined for operating a drone in Banff National Park. The incident took place at Two Jack Lake and was initiated by complaints from two skaters. After the park warden has approached him, McEachren admitted guilt in hopes to be let off with a warning. However, he received a $500 fine and a court appearance. Not knowing the law does not exempt you from the responsibility of following it, which is why ignorance can never be used as an excuse in such cases.