Fourth wolf killed on TCH
Another member of the Bow Valley wolf pack has been run over and killed on the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park.
On Monday (Oct. 22), a yearling male from the high profile pack was struck on the highway just west of Castle Junction around 8:30 a.m., bringing the human-caused death toll for this particular pack this year to four.
Parks Canada officials say they believe the wolf made it onto the highway through an open gate at the entrance to Mannix pit, which is an industrial area on the north side of the highway used for storing materials for the highway twinning project.
Eyewitnesses say the gate was left open and are calling on Parks Canada to lay charges. A Parks Canada employee who received a report of a wolf on the highway, arrived just three minutes after the animal was struck.
“Parks Canada is investigating the circumstances that led to this intrusion onto the highway,” said Omar McDadi, a spokesperson for Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay field unit.
“We’re saddened by and sincerely regret the loss of this wolf and the contribution it would have made to the park and its ecosystem over the long term.”
The Bow Valley wolf pack has been hardhit this year, including with the death of a five-month old female wolf pup killed on the train tracks near Muleshoe on Sept. 28.
In addition, two yearlings from the Bow Valley pack were killed on the Trans-Canada Highway – a female wolf near the Sunshine interchange on June 9 and a male about seven kilometres east of Castle Junction on June 11.
Two other wolves – not from this pack – were killed on the soon-to-be fenced portion of the highway this year, as well, one about five km east of the Alberta-B.C. border on June 15 and another near Bath Creek on Sept. 7.
A database of carnivore mortality on the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park from 1970-2010 shows carnivore mortality has not changed much since the highway fence went up.
The report indicates the wildlife exclusion fence has been effective in keeping ungulates off the Trans-Canada Highway, but not as effective for carnivores such as wolves and grizzlies.
The Outlook has requested a copy of this report through Parks Canada’s Banff office, but has been refused at this time. They say the report, which was handed in well over a year ago, is still being reviewed.
In the most recent human-caused wolf mortality, McDadi said the driver did not report hitting the wolf and he asks that anyone who strikes an animal, or sees wildlife on the road, report to Parks Canada as soon as possible.
He said Parks Canada received a report of a wolf on the highway side of the fence, but regrettably, the wildlife specialist arrived at the scene just three minutes after the animal had been hit.
“We understand accidents occur from time to time, but by simply reporting a collision or fence intrusion, visitors can provide very important information that can potentially make a difference in an animal’s life,” he said.
“If we arrive early enough, even if there’s a collision, it can sometimes help minimize animal suffering, and if we get there early enough, we can get the animal off the road if there is an intrusion.”
McDadi said information on wildlife collisions is important because it goes into a database that can help Parks Canada with future wildlife management decisions.
“Wolves are pretty awesome creatures and we’re really lucky to have them in the park since they recolonized in the 1980s, and our aim is for them to have the best possible chance of survival,” he said.
“It’s a sad day for everyone when we lose one of these precious animals. It’s hard on the biologists and technicians who work with them and it’s obviously upsetting for visitors, residents and people who care about our national parks.”
Gunther Bloch, a local resident and author who has long been passionate about wolves, said at least two members of the pack crossed the highway near the gravel pit Monday morning. He said others were on the highway, too, but managed to travel in front of the fence.
In a written complaint report to Parks Canada, he asked that charges be laid against the person responsible for not properly closing the gate, which he says he saw was wide open.
“This sloppiness is simply not acceptable at all, because this morning the whole wolf family could have been wiped out completely,” he said.
The Bow Valley pack is now thought to have five members remaining, including the alpha male and female, and three pups born earlier this year.
This pack’s home range covers an area in Banff National Park west into Yoho National Park and north to Bow Summit.
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