BANFF – Banff’s beleaguered Bow Valley pack has taken yet another hit with the death of a pup on the Trans-Canada Highway.
The yearling, which was one of two yearlings captured and fitted with tracking collars in early June, was struck and killed on the Trans-Canada Highway near Castle Mountain in Banff National Park on June 24.
“The vehicle strike was not reported to Parks Canada, and it is unknown how the wolf accessed the highway,” said Justin Brisbane, a spokesperson for Banff National Park.
The Bow Valley wolf pack continues to range between Banff, Canmore, Lake Louise and the surrounding valleys.
It now consists of four to five wolves, including the remaining collared yearling.
Wildlife experts, however, are now confident the alpha female has given birth to pups, noting there have been sightings of her.
“She is lactating so there are pups in the den somewhere,” said Blair Fyten, a human-wildlife management specialist for Banff National Park. “It’s probably just a matter of days before we get sightings.”
In 2016, two female members of the Bow Valley pack, including the breeding female, were killed for public safety reasons after they became accustomed to people, boldly entering busy campgrounds and day-use areas to get food.
The current breeding female of the pack, known as 1701, is the only remaining member of that former decimated pack. The former alpha male 1901 was killed on the Trans-Canada Highway near Banff in spring 2020.
Bow Valley wolves, including pups, have long faced additional pressures navigating the busy Bow Valley, which is bisected by the deadly Trans-Canada Highway and Canadian Pacific Railway.
Parks Canada’s wildlife team captured and fitted the two yearling members of the pack on June 5 after they showed “some behaviour of mild concern.”
There had been reports of these two yearlings following or getting within mere metres of vehicles, a worrying signal that they may have been starting to lose their wariness of people.
One of the yearlings, a black-coloured male, was the same wolf that was injured in the Lake Minnewanka area in mid-October 2020, resulting in a permanent injury to one of his rear legs.
It was thought at the time the wolf was either hurt in a vehicle collision, although none was reported to Parks Canada, or potentially getting too close to bull elk during the fall rut.
Regardless, he survived with the help of his pack mates for the past nine months.
“Parks Canada will continue to monitor the pack closely to prevent further habituation,” Brisbane said.
Parks Canada asks members of the public to help do their part in keeping wildlife wild.
To help protect wildlife, visitors should obey all posted speed limits, secure all food and garbage, never litter, never feed wildlife and give wildlife their space, For wolves, this means at least 100 metres or 10 bus-lengths.
All wolf sightings should be reported to Banff dispatch at 403-762-1470.
“The public plays an important role in assisting in large carnivore monitoring,” Brisbane said.
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