BANFF – A wolf fitted with a GPS tracking collar for research purposes in Banff National Park was shot and killed by a rancher in Montana in the United States.
A GPS-collared sub-adult male wolf of the Bow Valley pack, referred to as Wolf 2001, left his home range in Banff National Park on Feb. 28.
“On March 8, the wolf was legally shot by a landowner in Montana, near the US-Canada border,” said Justin Brisbane, public relations and communications officer for Banff National Park in an email.
“The incident was reported to Parks Canada staff the same day. It is legal in Montana for landowners to remove wolves that potentially threaten livestock, domestic dogs or human safety.”
It is unclear if that was the case in this instance.
Using radio collar data, Parks Canada staff tracked the young wolf’s movements south along the Elk Valley, passing north of Fernie, British Columbia, and across the U.S. border into Montana.
“Wolf 2001’s movements were shared with respective land managers and biologists as he travelled outside the national park boundary,” Brisbane said.
Parks Canada staff have been tracking the young member of the Bow Valley wolf pack for just over a year after he was captured and fitted with a GPS collar last winter.
Young wolves often leave their pack in search of new territory of their own, or new packs to join.
The most common dispersal age ranges from one-and-a-half to three years. Wolf 2001 was almost three years old.
“This wolf began to show signs of dispersal over the past six months, as it first travelled south into Spray Valley Provincial Park, and into British Columbia, before finally venturing further south,” Brisbane said.
A recent study, Wolves without borders: Transboundary survival of wolves in Banff National Park over three decades, found wolves in Banff National Park had survival rates similar to wolf populations in unprotected areas because they face hunting and trapping pressures on neighbouring provincial lands.
The study, published in Global Conservation and Ecology in December 2020, tracked the survival of 72 radio-collared grey wolves in Banff National Park and the surrounding area over the past 30 years from 1987 to 2018.
“We found that the life of a wolf in Banff looks very much like the life of wolves everywhere else in the province of Alberta,” co-author Mark Hebblewhite, a wildlife biology professor at the University of Montana, told The Outlook at the time.
“They are effectively unprotected and subjected to high risks of mortality from hunting and trapping outside the park boundaries, and even highway and railway mortality inside Banff National Park.”
Wolves in Banff, most of which have home ranges straddling the park boundary, had survival rates of 44 per cent on unprotected provincial lands outside of Canada’s first national park.
The risk of wolves dying was 6.7 times higher when they left the boundaries of the park, peaking during the liberal hunting and trapping seasons, which don’t have bag limits or quotas in place.
For example, two collared research wolves that spent the majority of their time in Banff were legally killed on a trapline within 10 kilometres of the park boundary two winters ago.
According to the study, trapping and hunting account for 36 per cent and 18 per cent of Banff wolf mortality respectively, while highways account for 18 per cent. The overall survival rate for Banff wolves was 73 per cent.
“Though wolves can often absorb high mortality, our results show the life of Banff National Park wolves is similar to unprotected populations,” said Hebblewhite, noting the results, however, don’t speak to population trends of wolves in Banff.
“The paper highlights most of the death is being caused when they leave the park, but the house isn’t completely in order yet inside the park, and we certainly have seen that in the last few years with human-caused mortality in Banff.”