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Environment and History

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Environment and History

Demonstration Wildlife: Negotiating the Animal Landscape of Vancouver’s Stanley Park, 1888–1996

Sean Kheraj

Environment and History 18 (2012): 497-527. doi: 10.3197/096734012X13466893037062

Since 1931, Canada has been a majority urban society with most of its population concentrated in a handful of southern cities. Given the urban character of Canadian society in the twentieth century, histories of large city parks, such as Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC, illustrate the changing relationship between people and wild animals in Canada because they represent local, regular encounters with a diverse range of animal species. The histories of local and regional parks in Canada reveal that human relations with wildlife were not limited to occasional, and sometimes fleeting, encounters in large national parks, distant from major population centres. As this article argues, the everyday interactions between people and animals within shared urban environments also influenced Canadian perceptions of wildlife and the management of park animals in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Park animal management policies and attitudes toward the place of animals in parks were not always informed by imagined, idealised concepts about wildlife from a distance but were shaped and changed over time according to local concerns and regular interactions between people and animals living in a shared environment. Over the course of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, human–animal relations on the Stanley Park peninsula shifted according to prevailing notions of ‘improvement’ and landscape modification current in the North American parks and later environmental movements. Prior to 1945, Park Board animal management policies embodied the perception that human modification of the animal composition of the park was a necessary improvement for the pleasure of tourists and other park visitors. After 1945, the Park Board moved away from such interventionist policies and began instead to foster habitat to establish sanctuaries for wildlife observation.

KEYWORDS: Parks, animals, management, wildlife, zoos, fisheries, hunting


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