The garbage came from two construction waste bins used during the improvement project at the popular tourist destination, and may have been dumped on the ground by other animals such as birds where the wolves could access it.
Parks Canada’ s law enforcement branch in Banff is investigating, but officials say they don’ t know whether the human garbage was tossed in the bin by passing tourists or by staff working on the project, which has been completed.
Wildlife officials say the wolves were feeding on the garbage, but they don’ t know specifically if they actually got any food.
“There was evidence of food wrappers and other human garbage like juice containers and bottles and cans. There was an opportunity for them to have had a food reward, but we hope they didn’ t,” sad David Gummer, a wildlife ecologist for Banff National Park.
“We’ re now on heightened alert status to keep tabs on the wolves and what their behaviour is, and we’ re hoping we don’ t see evidence of them trying to seek out human food anywhere else.”
This is the wolf pack that has taken up residence in the Bow Valley, including around the Banff townsite. Two of its members have been fitted with GPS collars, so Parks can keep closer tabs on the pack.
The five-member pack has been hunting deer and elk around Banff, which has led to the closure of several areas for public safety and to allow the wolves to feed undisturbed. The wolves were also seen hunting a deer in a residential Banff neighbourhood last year.
As soon as the call came in from a member of the public last Thursday, wildlife management staff responded to the Johnston Canyon parking lot where they found garbage strewn on the ground and evidence the wolves had been into it.
The construction bin was removed the next day.
Gummer said only three wolves were seen accessing the garbage, but he suspects all five members of the pack were in the parking lot and feasting on the garbage, based on tracks in the snow.
He said the industrial construction bin was not intended for household garbage or food waste.
“It’ s really unfortunate. On close inspection it certainly looked like some people had been using the construction bin to dispose of miscellaneous garbage,” said Gummer.
“We don’ t know how it got on the ground. It could have sort of blown out, or been lifted out by other animals like birds that may have accessed it. We don’ t know.”
Parks Canada reminds people to use wildlife proof garbage bins provided throughout the national park.
Any sightings of wolves should be reported to Banff dispatch at 403-762-1470.