Smoke haze from forest fires burning in Alberta and British Columbia hangs over Banff, Alta., in Banff National Park, Friday, July 21, 2017. Visitors to Banff National Park in Alberta will soon have to reserve a spot for a shuttle bus to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Banff wolves have lower survival rate due to hunting, trapping outside park boundary

Study shows grey wolves in Banff National Park don’t live much longer than those elsewhere in Alberta

A study shows grey wolves in Banff National Park don’t live much longer than those in the rest of Alberta because many are being hunted or trapped when they leave the protected area.

The paper that documents the survival of Banff wolves over three decades was published this week in the journal Global Ecology and Conservation.

Researchers looked at 72 radio-collared wolves in the national park from 1987 to August 2019.

“We found that the life of a wolf in Banff looks very much like the life of wolves everywhere else in the province of Alberta,” said co-author Mark Hebblewhite, an ecology professor at the University of Montana.

“They are effectively unprotected and subjected to high risks of mortality from hunting and trapping outside the park boundaries, and even highway and railway mortality inside (the park).”

The study found that the risk of death rose 6.7 times when wolves left the park for an overall survival rate of 73 per cent.

Hebblewhite said that isn’t much better than in the rest of Alberta, British Columbia or Montana.

“From the wolf’s perspective, there’s no real difference in terms of your survival inside or outside the park.”

The research showed that wolves that spent their entire life in Banff had a better — about 84 per cent — chance of survival, but Hebblewhite noted that most wolves leave the park to follow prey.

“The most important winter range for elk in the whole Banff National Park ecosystem isn’t in the park,” he said. “It’s outside the park so the wolves go there and they get subjected to hunting and trapping.”

The study also found 36 per cent of all deaths were caused by trapping and 18 per cent were from hunting.

Wolves getting killed within the park were run over on the highway or on the railway tracks, or put down because they got into human food.

“Inside the park isn’t perfect either,” said Hebblewhite.

Jesse Whittington, a wildlife ecologist in Banff National Park who co-authored the study, said he was pleased to see that some of the conservation measures adopted within the park have helped wolves.

“We fenced the Trans-Canada Highway and installed wildlife crossing structures, and those have substantially reduced wolf and other wildlife mortality on the highway,” he said. “That, in combination with our seasonal closures and travel restrictions, give wolves the habitat they need.”

He acknowledged there are still wolf deaths.

“Our biggest challenge is with highway intersections where secondary roads intersect,” he said. “We have cattle guards at these sites to deter wildlife, but wolves sometimes still travel across those and then, once they’re along the highway, face a high risk of mortality.”

Whittington said Banff lost two wolves during the summer in highway deaths and a third had to be put down because it got into human food at a campground.

“When these wolves become habituated or food conditioned, they become a risk to the public,” said Whittington, who noted that’s why parks staff try to educate visitors not to feed wildlife.

The study didn’t look at reproduction rates, but Whittington said the population has generally remained stable throughout the decades and wolves continue to be a key species in Banff National Park.

“They play a lot of roles in terms of regulating our ungulate populations,” he said. “That has cascading effects on the entire ecosystem.”

A high elk population, for example, can lead to overgrazing of vegetation. But when wolves keep elk numbers down, aspens and willows can regenerate, which can then help the songbird population, he said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

2020 Ponoka business awards
Ponoka chamber 2020 Business Award winners

The Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce 2020 Business Awards were held… Continue reading

Ryen Williams, 11, with a lost miniature horse at JJ Collett Oct. 23. Photo by Don Williams
UPDATE: Owner found

Father and son found miniature horse while out for a walk at JJ Collett

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

(Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
Ponoka FCSS’ Empty Bowls sells out

For the first time ever, Ponoka Family and Community Support Services’ (FCSS’s)… Continue reading

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner, left to right, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrive to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No-confidence showdown over sweeping Tory motion on government handling of pandemic

The Conservative motion is to be put to a vote Monday and has the support of both the Bloc Québécois and NDP

Marissa Cunnington. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
NARCHC year end horse show photos and results

The Northern Alberta Reined Cow Horse Club (NARCHC) held its futurity, derby… Continue reading

From l-r., first lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden on stage at the conclusion of the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Trump, Biden fight over the raging virus, climate and race

Republican president declared the virus, which killed more than 1,000 Americans on Thursday alone, will “go away.”

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

RCMP. (Black Press File Photo)
Calgary man dies in two-vehicle collision near Sylvan Lake

A semi truck collided with a SUV just east of Hwy. 781 on Hwy 11.

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Most Read