(The Canadian Perss)

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

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

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.

ALSO READ: Man charged after cougar harassed with a slingshot in Banff National Park

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Banff

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

Just Posted

There has been COVID-19 exposures at two elementary schools in District 42. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 24 additional COVID-19 cases

This includes three school exposures in Kelowna

Ashton Hickson, firefighter with the BX-Swan Lake Fire Rescue, will be on scene Oct. 31, 2020, at one of two locations collecting donations for Muscular Dystrophy Canada. (RDNO contributed)
Fill your boots for Muscular Dystrophy: North Okanagan firefighters

BX-Swan Lake fire department hosting boot drive to boost funds for charity

Jack-o-lanterns will light up Spirit Square this Halloween in Armstrong a the Armstrong Spallumcheen Chamber of Commerce plans a fun spooky evening amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Contributed)
Halloween fun planned in Armstrong Spallumcheen amid COVID-19

Movies, horrifying walks and tons of jack-o-lanterns will help mark the spooky season

October is Foster Parent Appreciation month. (stock image)
North Okanagan foster families applauded

October is Foster Parent Appreciation Month

The Med Restaurant was named the 2020 Business of the Year at the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. (Contributed)
Greater Vernon businesses honoured for excellence

Greater Vernon Chambers of Commerce has announced its 2020 Business Excellence Award winners

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A Summerland woman has set up an online fundraiser to provide backpacks to those being released from correctional facilities.(ca.gofundme.com)
Summerland woman raising money for backpack program

Backpacks will be distributed to those being released from correctional facilities

École de l’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
15 cases of COVID-19 tied to Kelowna Francophone school outbreak

Three other schools in Kelowna are also dealing with potential exposure events

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

A four-vehicle accident on the Bruhn Bridge in Sicamous destroyed two cars and a section of bridge guardrail but remarkably injured no one. (Sicamous RCMP Image)
Sicamous’ Bruhn Bridge site of two collisions

Although a total of five vehicles were involved, no one was injured

Steven Gardner in an Instagram selfie that contributed to his arrest.
Receipt plus Instagram selfie leads to arrest of Kamloops man

Steven Gardner is facing three firearms charges

A woman walks through check in at WestJet at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Strong support for pre-flight COVID testing ahead of upcoming WestJet trial: YVR

Airport is partnering with UBC, which is helping choose the method of pre-flight testing

(File)
Two more Kelowna flights flagged as having COVID-19 aboard

A flight from Vancouver to Kelowna and a flight from Kelowna to Edmonton have been identified

Most Read