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Sick wolf pup died with piece of heavy leather lodged in its throat, stomach

Parks Canada is doing further testing on the eight-and-a-half-month-old male wolf found dead earlier this month to determine the potential causes of the pup's illness.

BANFF – The cause of death of a male wolf pup found by the Bow River in the Banff townsite earlier this month was a piece of heavy leather lodged in the animal’s throat and stomach.

Parks Canada did not grant an interview despite several requests, but a statement indicated a necropsy determined the approximately eight-and-a-half-month-old wolf pup was emaciated.

Justin Brisbane, a spokesperson for Banff National Park, said the young wolf likely had been sick for an extended period of time before it died.

“Although the immediate cause of death was determined to be a piece of heavy leather lodged in the wolf’s throat and stomach, the wolf was most likely already near death when this item was consumed,” he wrote.

“Further testing is underway to provide insight into the potential causes of the wolf’s illness.”

Parks Canada discovered the dead wolf near the Bow River across from Bow Avenue on Jan. 7.

No further details are being provided at this point, including whether the wolf was thought to be a member of the Bow Valley wolf pack.

However, it was confirmed earlier this month that it’s not the black-coloured injured wolf pup that is running with the pack.

Currently, there are eight members of the Bow Valley wolf pack, including the breeding female.

John Marriott, a local wildlife photographer who is very familiar with the pack, said he doesn’t believe the dead pup belonged to the Bow Valley pack because he saw all of them a few days earlier on Jan 3. or 4 eating elk.

But, on the flip side, he said he doesn’t know where another wolf pup would come from.

“All eight looked very healthy with full bellies,” Marriott said. “All of the pups and adults were playing, which is a sign that they are very healthy and well fed.”

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.