Visitor Safety

Natural Hazards

Bear in meadow
Bear in meadow
© Parks Canada / P. McCloskey

All outdoor activities involve some degree of risk. Wood Buffalo National Park is largely preserved in its natural state and natural areas can be dangerous. Unstable karst topography and crevices, insects, wild animals and adverse weather are all backcountry hazards that visitors may encounter. Visitors are responsible for their own safety and should be well-prepared for their chosen activities.


The weather in the park can be variable and unpredictable. Extremes in temperatures, as well as adverse conditions such as storms, high winds, or rain may be encountered. Adequate protective clothing should be carried at all times.


Biting insects are a reality of life in the boreal ecosystem. Your best defence is adequate protection - clothing layers that they can't bite through, bug jackets and insect repellent.

Wildlife Encounters

  • Bears : Black bears inhabit all areas of the park. They are wild animals and deserve your respect. Taking proper precautions can reduce the risk of bear encounters. Please read You Are In Bear Country for bear safety information.
  • Bison : Bison in the park are free-roaming and can be dangerous if disturbed. Do not approach the animals. Bison are at their most dangerous during the rutting season which starts in mid-July. Watch for warning signs of agitation — raised tail, pawing of the ground, head-butting and general restlessness.

Driving in the Park

The roads in Wood Buffalo National Park are all-weather gravel. As distances are long, ensure that you have enough gas for your planned route before leaving. Hazards such as loose gravel, ruts, potholes and dust may be encountered. Some sections of road may become muddy and slippery when wet. Observe posted speed limits and keep a sharp lookout for wildlife such as bison. If you encounter bison on the road, stop and wait for them to move. Do not attempt to push through them with your vehicle. Always drive with your headlights on to alert oncoming traffic. Special precautions are required for safe travel on the winter road .

Backcountry Travel

Whether travelling on foot or by canoe, backcountry registration is mandatory for any overnight stays in the backcountry. A park use and fire permit will be issued at the Visitor Reception Centre.


There are many natural hazards associated with the major waterways in the park. Read the section on boating , as well as the Guide to Waterways In and Around Wood Buffalo National Park for additional safety information about the park's waterways.

Planning a safe visit to a national park