Park Service says drones could disturb wildlife

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — A short video shot inside Denali National Park from a camera mounted on a drone shows the potential for how the unmanned devices could bother wildlife or people watching it, according to a park spokeswoman.

The video was shot by a drone flying near mew gulls, Kris Fister told KUAC-FM, and was posted on YouTube.

“They were in the Savage River parking lot and they flew up and provided an overview of the area and then at one point the aircraft zoomed down, flew right over the nest enclosure that we have for the mew gulls that nest on the gravel bar and flew under the Savage River bridge,” Fister said. “So that’s an instance where certainly there was high potential for wildlife disturbance and potentially disturbance to visitors who are also utilizing that parking lot.”

National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis on Friday directed park superintendents to ban unmanned aircraft in national parks. Spokesman Jeffrey Olson said most had been used by hobbyists.

“They usually have a video camera that is carried aloft and they shoot video and stills and a lot of times they go home and they make a little video out of it and put a music soundtrack on it and share it with friends or even put it on YouTube,” Olson said.

Drones are becoming easier to afford, Olson said. The new policy is a “timeout” that gives the agency time to research effects of unmanned aerial vehicles and develop regulations.

“We don’t have all the answers, and that’s why this is temporary. We like to have people in national parks and we like to have people enjoying themselves in national parks and if there are places where this is going to be an appropriate activity, we want to find that out,” Olson said.

The policy takes effect after 60 days. National regulations could take 18 months or more to develop.

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