After pack's collapse, wolves might den again in the Bow Valley this spring

Hope is on the horizon for Alberta's Bow Valley wolf pack. A female wolf was seen travelling with a possible mate throughout Banff National Park over the winter.

'We might have the possibility of hearing them howl again'

Wolves could return to the Bow Valley this year. (The Associated Press)

Hope is on the horizon for Alberta's Bow Valley wolf pack.

The pack, which collapsed in 2016, could see a resurgence this year. A female wolf has been seen travelling with a possible mate throughout Banff National Park over the winter.

"It's really exciting we might have the possibility of hearing them howl again in this region," said Jodi Hilty, president and chief scientist with the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. The non-profit organization protects interconnected habitats across the entire region.

Jodi Hilty, president and chief scientist with the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Hilty said the Bow Valley is a unique space, well positioned for small populations of carnivores to thrive.

"We have a park service that cares about trying to offer the opportunity for wolves to do what wolves do and we have a social community that believes in co-existence," she said. "Ultimately we want to have a vibrant population."

Six pups in the pack were killed and three shot in 2016. One of the two remaining wolves left for another pack, and just a lone female remained.

Banff wildlife ecologist Jesse Whittington said the female and the other wolf she has been sighted with have been travelling from Castle Junction to Carrot Creek. 

Parks staff don't monitor the wolves too closely, instead relying on some radio collars as well as trail cameras and public observations to avoid disturbing the animals, so they haven't yet confirmed if the wolf the female is travelling with is male. But, they're holding out hope that the animals will den in the park this spring.

Banff wildlife ecologist Jesse Whittington said there's a possibility the Bow Valley wolf pack might den this spring. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

"What we really want to see is that we do have a Bow Valley pack working and operating throughout the Bow Valley and the surrounding landscapes because they do have such a huge effect on our elk, vegetation re-growth and songbird communities," Whittington said.

Wolves typically den in mid-April, Whittington said.

Parks Canada has closed off the Hillsdale area of the parkway from April 1 through July 1 to allow the wolves space to den, but it won't impact any of the trail systems for visitors.

"We hope that will provide them the security they need so they have the space to raise their cubs."

With files from Terri Trembath