They were shot for seeking human food. Their pups were hit by trains. Now the last two remaining members of Banff National Park's Bow Valley pack have moved on.
Parks Canada staff estimated the pack had at least nine wolves in the spring of 2016. But the wolf pack started getting in trouble last year when the animals became used to human food and lingered near campgrounds.
Jesse Whittington, a wildlife ecologist with Banff National Park, says two of the wolves were shot by Parks Canada officers for aggressive behaviour. A third was shot by a hunter outside the park in southeastern British Columbia.
None of the pack's pups survived. Four of them were killed by trains.
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The remaining male, who has a GPS collar, has now joined a pack of four or five wolves in the southern part of the park. It's called the Spray pack.
That male's two-year-old female offspring "hooked up" with another male wolf this summer, but hasn't been spotted recently, Whittington said.
She has an older VHF-only radio collar that has to be picked up by scanners on the ground.
It's common for wolves who are two and a half years old to leave the pack. The hot weather this summer might have also played a role in her disappearance.
"Wolves often in the summertime will travel up to the higher elevations. They will take their pups up there. They'll hunt up there, in part, especially this summer. It's cooler there, but that's also where a lot of the elk, deer, and moose go," said Whittington.
"Last summer was very unusual for us. Normally wolves travel up to the high elevations. You don't see them in the valley bottom at that time of year. But that pack became food conditioned and they were constantly in our campgrounds, close to the campsites, looking for human food."
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Whittington expects wolves will eventually move back into the Bow Valley because there is a lot of wildlife to feed on.
"There's quite a lot of prey out there. Not as many elk as we had out there 20 years ago… there's elk, deer, moose, big horn sheep, mountain goats. And wolves prey on all those species. I'm certain at some point in the next year or two we will have a full-fledged Bow Valley pack again."
Wolves from outside the valley will need to learn how to navigate the busy landscape, using the wildlife under- and overpasses, he added.
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