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Cause of death of wolf found near Banff townsite unknown

Parks Canada is performing a necropsy on a dead male wolf found on Jan. 7 near the Bow River to determine the cause of its death.
Wolf Pup Injured_D.Laskin
The injured wolf pup walks along a road in Banff National Park. Parks Canada has confirmed this is not the wolf that was found dead. DAVID LASKIN PARKS CANADA PHOTO

BANFF – Wildlife experts are investigating the discovery of a dead wolf in the Banff townsite.

A Parks Canada spokesperson was not available for an interview, but according to a statement from the federal agency, the dead male wolf was discovered by park staff near the Bow River across from Bow Avenue on Thursday (Jan. 7).

“Parks Canada officials are investigating the incident, and will conduct a necropsy to determine its cause of death,” said Justin Brisbane, public relations and communications officer for Banff National Park.

At this point, it is unknown if the wolf is a member of the Bow Valley pack.

However, it has been confirmed that it is not the black-coloured injured wolf pup that is running with the pack, or the two-and-a-half-year-old male fitted with a GPS collar.

John Marriott, a local wildlife photographer and advocate for wolves, said he hopes it’s not a members of the Bow Valley pack, which he believes currently has eight members based on his observations, including the breeding female.

He said he also hopes the wolf died a natural death, but said it is speculation at this point until the results of the necropsy are made public by Parks Canada.

“It is right at mating time, so it could quite easily be a wolf that was coming through that tried to join the pack and got killed,” Marriott said.

“The number one killer of wolves in non-hunted populations is fighting amongst each other … it’s usually pack and against pack and territorial disputes,” he added.

“In the national park, if we didn’t have the highway and railway through here, wolves-against-wolves would be the primary cause of death.”

Given the location the dead wolf was discovered, Marriott said it is also possible he may have been hurt and killed in a hunt.

“We’re just guessing until we know more, but that is an area where they do hunt elk a lot, so it’s possible,” he said.

The Bow Valley pack lost the alpha male, known as 1901, in May 2020, when it was struck and killed on the Trans-Canada Highway about 1.5 kilometres west of the Banff townsite overlooking Vermilion Lakes.

It is believed the breeding male got onto the Trans-Canada Highway by crossing a cattle guard at one of the interchanges – considered one of the weak spots in the system of wildlife crossings and wildlife exclusion fencing.

One of the pack’s pups born in spring 2020 was first reported injured in mid-October 2020 in the Minnewanka Loop, prompting Banff wildlife experts to keep a close eye on the young one.

The black-coloured wolf pup initially appeared to be in fairly poor condition, with an injured back leg making it hard for the animal to move, but it has continued to keep up with the pack in recent months.

It is not known for sure what caused the wolf pup’s injuries. Parks Canada suspects it was either struck by a vehicle, although there were no reports of that to Banff dispatch, or it was hurt when the pack was hunting elk in the area.

Parks Canada asks residents and visitors to report deceased wildlife to Banff Dispatch at 403-762-1470.