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Wolf pack kill site leads to closure

BANFF – Wolves feasting on elk carcasses have prompted Parks Canada to temporarily close areas on the edge of the Banff townsite. On Saturday (Feb.
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A pack of wolves feeding on an elk carcass near the Banff townsite in February. One of the pups in the pack was struck and killed on the Trans-Canada Highway on Monday (March 11).

BANFF – Wolves feasting on elk carcasses have prompted Parks Canada to temporarily close areas on the edge of the Banff townsite.

On Saturday (Feb. 23), a patrolling resource conservation officer tracking the Bow Valley pack through a VHF collar fitted on the breeding female wolf came across wolves on a male
elk carcass.

“They noticed a number of ravens and eventually saw wolves in the Marsh Loop behind Warner Stables,” said Dan Rafla, a human-wildlife conflict specialist for Banff National Park.

“Most of it was still available for the wolves, so we moved it a few hundred metres into cover and closed the area so they wouldn’t be disturbed.”

The following day, an adult female elk carcass was discovered just off the Fenlands Trail, prompting Parks Canada to set up a spot closure in that area.

“There was an abundance of wolf tracks in the area, but we can’t be certain it was killed by the wolves,” Rafla said.

“It was mostly already consumed so it might have been killed by something else and scavenged.”

Earlier in the month, wolves were eating an elk carcass in an area behind the Fenlands recreation centre.

Rafla said it’s unlikely the wolves killed the elk, adding a car could have struck it or a cougar or coyotes could have hunted it.

“They totally cleaned it up in about 12 hours,” he said.

The most recent count indicates there are six members of the wolf pack, including four pups. The breeding female, known as 1701, is a surviving member of the former pack that was decimated in 2016.

That year, four pups were struck and killed by trains and two female wolves, including the breeding female, were killed for public safety reasons when they repeatedly entered campgrounds looking for food.

Rafla said the wolves are being monitored daily and have shown no concerning behaviour, noting the pack have been occasionally spotted close to town at Vermilion Lakes, but from a far distance.

“These areas are high quality habitat and it’s really a success that they’re doing what wildlife does,” he said.

“It’s a reminder that wilderness is outside the door, and as long as they’re not crossing into town and their behaviour isn’t changing, that’s good.”

That said, resource conservation officers plan to haze away the wolves if their behaviour changes and they start coming into high human use areas and along roadways.

“If there was any indication of habituation we’d up our strategy,” said Rafla. “We want to keep them wary from both people and vehicles to prevent what happened a couple of years ago.”

Parks Canada reminds people that it’s illegal to feed wildlife and stresses the importance of not approaching wolves. Residents and visitors are also asked to report any wolf activity to 403-762-1470.

“It’s so critical because we can’t do this entirely on our own,” said Rafla.