Conservationists explore wolf hunting ban around Banff

Parks Canada asks Alta government to consider changing rules on wolf hunting around Banff National Park to protect the canines.

Parks Canada is asking the Alberta government to re-evaluate the province's rules on wolf hunting around Banff National Park.

The wild members of the dog family are protected in the park, but wolves don't stay put. When hungry wolves roam into nearby areas like the Ya Ha Tinda (east of the park and northwest of Calgary), hunters are free to take aim.

"Wolves that live in those boundary areas between protected and non-protected areas stand a greater chance of dying each year than those who live strictly in protected areas," said Carolyn Callaghan, a researcher with the Central Rockies Wolf Project.

It's easier for hunters in Alberta to kill a wolf than it is to kill the big game animals they prey on, such as elk. Hunters don't need a licence to shoot wolves. North of Calgary, they don't have to register their kills.

"We were just out for a drive and she (a wolf) happened to run across the road, so we figured why not?" said elk hunter Justin Perschbacher.

Conservationists say only 60 to 70 wolves live in the central Rockies. So-called "casual killing" bothers Callaghan, who points out wolves were exterminated in the area in the 1950s. It took 20 years for their numbers to recover.

Researchers have placed radio collars on some wolves to track them, but many of the animals aren't accounted for.

Dave Dalman of Parks Canada wants Alberta to start a wolf registry so all wolf kills will be reported. If the main cause of mortality turns out to be hunting, he said, then a buffer zone could be set up to restrict wolf hunting.

Parks Canada plans to discuss the option with hunters and the province. For now, Alberta says it has no plans to change how it manages wolves.