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Wolf expert says food access could prove lethal for Bow Valley pack

The Bow Valley wolf pack is being put in jeopardy by visitors allowing them easy access to food, an internationally recognized expert on wolves says.

Wolves are losing their fear of humans

As the wolves bad behaviour gets worse, the risks for both the animals and humans in the Bow Valley increase (Journal Science/Associated Press)

The Bow Valley wolf pack is being put in jeopardy by visitors allowing them easy access to food, an internationally recognized expert on wolves says.

Parks Canada was forced to post a wolf warning for campgrounds in the Bow Valley in Banff National Park on Thursday after a string of incidents that have seen the animals getting bolder around humans.

"Both inadvertently on the part of people who leave food, and also those who do it intentionally, the consequences for wolves are often lethal," Paul Paquet tells CBC News.

Incidents escalating 

The Bow Valley pack was seen eating garbage at Johnston Canyon in January, and there have been many more sightings since.

On Tuesday things escalated when the pack entered a campsite at Tunnel Mountain, ignoring campers who tried to chase them away, with one of them making off with a loaf of bread from a closed cooler.

Andrew Hempstead was checking out the newly revamped trail at Johnston Canyon back in January when he noticed something moving in the parking lot. (Submitted by Andrew Hempstead)

Paquet says as the wolves behaviour gets worse, the risks for both them and us increase.

"I do think there's an element of risk for people and it's a difficult conundrum for how they address that," said Paquet, who has been studying wolves and their behaviour for 45 years.

Serious consequences

"The risk is relatively minor in terms of any form of aggression that would manifest into serious injuries, but the possibility of a bite is there."

Wildlife expert Paul Paquet says increased aggression by the Bow Valley wolf pack is bad news for humans and wolves alike. 4:08

Paquet says that level of aggression could easily see a wolf or wolves having to be destroyed.

"Conditioning means an individual wolf can become very demanding and part of that demand is expressed as aggression towards individuals that might be preventing the wolves from acquiring what they feel they deserve and have access to — which is food in this case — and that can be problematic."

Long term outlook

Paquet thinks wolf packs attempting to live in the Bow Valley will only ever have marginal success in the long term because of the growing presence of humans and development. 

"They still die on the highway, they still die on the railway. It's a difficult situation for wolves and it's also a difficult challenge for Parks Canada to accommodate wolves while simultaneously accommodating and protecting the public."

The wolf warning currently in place for the Bow Valley in Banff National Park covers campgrounds and day-use areas. 

The public are being reminded not to approach, entice or feed wildlife and to make sure food, pet food and garbage are stored inside buildings or vehicles.

People are being asked to report all carnivore sightings to Banff Dispatch at 403-762-1470.

A wolf warning poster issued by Parks Canada on Thursday.

With files from CBC News Calgary