In reference to the RMO articles in issues Feb. 3 and March 10, 2011.
A footnote: On March 7, Meadow was killed on the railway. The one-year-old, female was a family member of the Pipestone not the Bow Valley Pack. Her parents originated from the backcountry and seasonally the wolves are still using this area. The tradition has been established for at least two decades. In 2008, the breeding pair Spirit and Faith established a territory in the Bow Valley. In 2009, three pups were successfully raised: Skoki, Blizzard and Raven. The latter was killed on the Bow Valley Parkway.
In 2010, the primary decision-maker of the family, Faith, gave birth to Lillian, Chester and Meadow. Although breeding season had begun, we were unable to document any dominance-related tensions between father Spirit and his son Skoki. Nonetheless, in December 2010, the one-and-a-half-year-old male left Banff.
How do we know all of this? Well known biologist Dr. Paul Paquet stated in 2009: “Technology such as radio-collars and even remote cameras have helped provide some ecological insights, but the important and intimate details that are the essence of behaviour are best revealed via direct observation”. In order to precisely determine the social structure and the sex-ratio of the wolves, observations of behaviour are what we have been focussing on since 1992. Consequently, we were the ones who named each individual wolf.
Based on our unparalleled wealth of behavioural information (approximately 10,000 responsibly-documented sightings so far), we can confirm that all wolves have been using the Canadian Pacific Railway system regularly since they re-colonized the Bow Valley. Totally independent of any snow-depth, they do so all year long. As culturally social and intelligent predators, wolves pass information between generations, and their behaviour reflect established traditions related to their environment.
Using railways and roads can be best described as brain-wired, habitat-imprinted behaviour patterns. Wolves, using human infrastructure, are often wrongly classified as being “too habituated”. In fact, what we are observing is adaptation to their specific environment (details: Bloch & Gibeau, 2010 under www.peter-a-dettling.com).
Unfortunately, mortality is a drawback to the adaptability of wolves, bears and other species. Accordingly, CPR should unambiguously acknowledge responsibility for the deaths of countless and blameless wild animals. Enough is enough. Dealing superficially with the grain-issue/contributing a million dollars into a research project is simply not enough (a tiny gesture at best).
For more than 40 years, researchers have known that the high speed at which trains travel through the park is the real and preventable killer of wildlife. So why doesn’t CPR invoke a voluntary speed limit of maximum 30 km/hr, especially during the sensitive time between dusk and dawn? Such an initiative would cost a lot of money, but what is the real price of CPR’s profits? The bottom line is that such an initiative would be good news for our valuable wildlife, and an excellent and honest public relations strategy for CPR’s internationally damaged corporate image.
Guenther and Karin Bloch canid behaviour experts,