Banff hopes to protect wolves by crackdown on messy campers

Banff National Park officials plan to crack down on messy campers this summer as to protect the three remaining members of the Bow Valley wolf pack, which has become increasingly habituated to human food.

2 wolves from Bow Valley pack had to be shot in 2016 after becoming used to human food

Wolves are an important part of Banff's ecosystem and help to control the elk population, conservation officer Bill Hunt says. (Dawn Villella/Associated Press)

Banff National Park officials plan to crack down on messy campers this summer as to protect the three remaining members of the Bow Valley wolf pack, which has become increasingly habituated to human food.

In 2016, two wolves from the Bow Valley pack had to be shot by wildlife officials after they exhibited bold behaviour, having become habituated to food left out at Banff campgrounds in violation of national park rules.

Four of the pack's pups had already been killed by trains earlier in the summer.

The pack is now comprised of an alpha male and two juveniles, a male and a female, conservation officer Bill Hunt told the Calgary Eyeopener. Two of the three now have tracking collars.

"Food and garbage and wolves just don't mix," Hunt said.

"For an animal like a wolf, an empty Coke can or an empty beer can is a pretty unique flavour, pretty exciting for them. They get a reward from that and they'll seek out that in the future."

Hunt says wolves are an important part of Banff's ecosystem.

"They help us manage our elk populations, our deer populations. And for visitors it's a once in a lifetime opportunity to come to Banff and see these wild animals," he said.

Stepping up enforcement

Officials will step up enforcement at campsites, making sure campers dispose of garbage properly and store their food securely, Hunt says.

There will also be a zero-tolerance policy for illegal camping.

"Any sort of illegal camping out in the woods is extremely dangerous," he said.

"You can end up in a negative encounter with a grizzly bear or black bear. But also, it's a potential food source for these wolves, and they have an incredible sense of smell and can cover a lot of ground. They find these locations quite quickly."

Hunt says there are other wolf packs in the Rockies. He said he expects that, come spring, the alpha male in the Bow Valley pack will try to mate with wolves from other packs and boost the population.

The penalty for an unsatisfactory campsite is eviction from the campground, a court appearance and a fine of up to $25,000.


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener