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Wolves not being protected

Editor: Maximum profit, maximum loss of animal life and a high degree of human ignorance is a good way to describe the current situation found in Canada’s oldest national park, Banff.


Maximum profit, maximum loss of animal life and a high degree of human ignorance is a good way to describe the current situation found in Canada’s oldest national park, Banff.

As reported previously in the Rocky Mountain Outlook, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in Banff National Park has killed another wolf; the second wolf in a matter of weeks.

Parks Canada, the agency responsible for protecting parks on behalf of Canadians and the world (as a UNESCO world heritage site), responds to this ongoing tragedy with a consistent pattern of concentrated complacency.

“Wolf mortality continues to be high, but sustainable” (RMO, March 10, 2011) is only one of the many published statements that convinced me to respond to some of these misleading statements.

Wildlife sustainability in the Banff-Bow Valley remains highly worrisome at best. The truth is that some of the most iconic wildlife species, such as wolves, moose and grizzly bears living in the ecological heart of Banff (the Banff-Bow Valley) are unable to maintain a sustainable population and instead depend on the influx of animals from the backcountry or outside the park.

In terms of the Banff-Bow Valley wolf mortality rate: the truth is that in the last two decades about 80 per cent of all known wolf mortality was caused by humans. Nothing has changed this shocking statistic over the years; not the fencing of the Trans-Canada Highway, or other reputed mitigation measures.

Parks Canada knows this, but is unwilling or unable to tackle this problem adequately. Instead, lip service and spin are offered to placate the public; hand in hand with CPR.

Both lauded lately on various occasions the investment of $21 million, spread out over 10 years, in order to solve the high wildlife mortality rate in Banff National Park ($20 million for fixing leaking grain cars and $1 million for research).

Sounds like a lot of money, but it isn’t. Consider that CPR earned a staggering $5.5 billion net income between 1999 and 2008. In other words, CPR top officials consider the lives of wolves, deer, elk, grizzly bears, etc. as worth no more than 0.5 per cent of their profits. A simple solution that is unacceptable to CPR or Parks Canada is to reduce the speed limit of CPR trains, at least in some of the high impact areas, or to restrict some night traffic.

In 2009, at about the same time as Parks Canada was busy killing 16 supposed “habituated town elk”, the last of the few remaining caribou which lingered on in Banff National Park were wiped out by a single avalanche. Their frozen bodies symbolize the current attitude within the agency towards well-funded and sound scientific research in the mountain parks.

While funds for strong science appear frozen, funds for ad and PR campaigns flow freely. Just keep an eye out for past, current and future high gloss magazine articles or exhibitions sponsored by Parks Canada showcasing for the world the “success story” of Canadian national parks.

To add to the momentum, Parks Canada is also pushing for the reintroduction of bison and mountain caribou, both of which were driven to extinction in Banff by human impact and negligence.

To find a suitable location for reintroducing woodland (mountain) caribou, Parks Canada initiated an intrusive collaring program on the wolves living in the Banff-Bow Valley. Their findings confirmed data and knowledge already compiled over a decade ago by Parks Canada’s own research.

In a nutshell; there is nothing new other than the continuing lack of new, groundbreaking insight into the complex social behaviour of wolf families.

Albert Einstein once stated: “Look deep, deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Indeed!

Direct observation is the key to understanding of the natural world and Parks Canada is denying this highly important task. It is for that reason that I and some associates continue to do our own, largely underfunded and understaffed work, trying to deliver to the public a completely unbiased view of the plight of wolves, bears and caribou that share with us this so called “protected land”. Some of our findings, such as a paper written by Günther Bloch and Mike Gibeau on adaptive behaviour of the Bow Valley wolves or a complete set of wildlife road and railway mortality data found inside the mountain parks can be viewed and/or downloaded on the following website link:

Peter A. Dettling,