BANFF – An emaciated wolf that has been seeking food and approaching people has been killed for public safety reasons.
Parks Canada wildlife officials first became aware of a young, emaciated, male wolf on Sunshine Road about three weeks ago, noting that the wolf had become excessively habituated and conditioned to human food.
“Parks Canada wildlife officials determined the wolf was not a good candidate for rehabilitation, and therefore, humanely euthanized the wolf to ensure public safety,” said Parks Canada spokesman Justin Brisbane in a statement Wednesday (July 8).
On Monday (July 6), Parks Canada team members spotted the wolf entering a storage building at Sunshine Village, and approaching people.
A followup investigation that day suggested the animal had been in the area the previous week, seeking human food and any available garbage.
Given this behaviour, Brisbane said Parks Canada wildlife specialists captured and collared the wolf to assess its body condition and monitor its behaviour.
Brisbane said a decision to destroy the wolf the following day (Tuesday, July 7) was taken after carefully considering all other options for keeping this animal alive, but noted the wolf posed a risk to public safety.
“This was a very difficult decision for Parks Canada team members, who work hard to protect these animals and the ecosystems they live in,” he said.
In a separate incident on Sunday (July 5), Parks Canada wildlife officials received a report from Egypt Lake backcountry campground, where a wolf entered two tents and removed an empty backpack from one of them.
“[It] may have obtained unsecured food or garbage from another campsite,” Brisbane said.
In response, Parks Canada closed three backcountry campgrounds– Egypt Lake Campground, Healy Creak Campground and Pharaoh Creek Campground – and posted a warning for all surrounding trails.
“At this time, Parks Canada team members do not know if these two wolf incidents are related,” Brisbane said. “Parks Canada wildlife officials and enforcement officers continue to investigate these incidents. “
In a third incident involving a completely different wolf, Parks Canada wildlife officials responded to a report of a wolf on the Trans-Canada Highway east of Banff on Sunday (July 5). This animal was seen later that day near the Two Jack Canal on the Minnewanka Loop Road.
The next day, the same animal was spotted on Banff Avenue.
“This animal has shown bold behaviour and approached vehicles with dogs,” Brisbane said.
In recent days, there have been several reports posted on social media of wolf sightings inside the Banff townsite, including a woman who indicated a wolf walked right past her, only a few metres away, and another of a wolf on Banff Avenue.
On Wednesday, there were reports of a deer chasing the wolf.
In response to all these reports and sightings, a separate wolf warning has been issued for the Town of Banff, Minnewanka Loop, and Tunnel Mountain areas.
“Parks Canada continues to monitor this situation,” Brisbane said.
John Marriott, a local wolf advocate, said he supports Parks Canada’s decision given the circumstances.
“It’s a fine line to walk knowing when a wolf is a good candidate for rehabilitation from a hazing program versus when to have to put it down,” he said.
“This seemed to be a new, unknown wolf and unfortunately it definitely showed serious signs of being food-conditioned,” he added.
“I’ve never been a fan of having to kill wildlife in the park, but tough decisions do have to be made sometimes.”
Marriott said the bottom line is that a dispersing wolf once again found Banff to be anything but protected.
“Wolves come here to die, which is tragic, especially when you consider the total lack of protection for wolves elsewhere inAlberta,” he said.
In 2016, Parks Canada was forced to kill two female wolves in the Bow Valley pack after they got into human food and were boldly approaching people. One of those was the former alpha female.
The current breeding female of the pack, who was young when her mother was killed, is the only surviving member of that former pack. The alpha male of the existing pack was hit and killed on the Trans-Canada Highway in May.
The pack did have pups this spring.
Parks Canada reminds all visitors and backcountry campers to: stay alert, keep food and garbage secure, never feed wildlife, do not litter, and give wildlife space. Backcountry campers can keep attractants secure in the bear-proof lockers provided at approved campsites.
Parks Canada provides the following advice to safely coexist with wildlife in the national park:
• Never approach, entice or feed wildlife.
• Ensure all food, garbage, and pet food are stored inside a building or vehicle.
• Supervise children and keep pets on a leash at all times.
• If you are approached by a wolf, act aggressively to discourage it from approaching.
• Carry bear spray and know how to use it.
• Report all wolf sightings immediately to Banff dispatch at 403-762-1470.
This story will be updated as more details become available.