(The Canadian Perss)

Banff wolves have lower survival rate due to hunting, trapping outside park boundary

Researchers looked at 72 radio-collared wolves in the national park from 1987 to August 2019

A study shows grey wolves in Banff National Park don’t live much longer than those in the rest of Alberta because many are being hunted or trapped when they leave the protected area.

The paper that documents the survival of Banff wolves over three decades was published this week in the journal Global Ecology and Conservation.

Researchers looked at 72 radio-collared wolves in the national park from 1987 to August 2019.

“We found that the life of a wolf in Banff looks very much like the life of wolves everywhere else in the province of Alberta,” said co-author Mark Hebblewhite, an ecology professor at the University of Montana.

“They are effectively unprotected and subjected to high risks of mortality from hunting and trapping outside the park boundaries, and even highway and railway mortality inside (the park).”

The study found that the risk of death rose 6.7 times when wolves left the park for an overall survival rate of 73 per cent.

Hebblewhite said that isn’t much better than in the rest of Alberta, British Columbia or Montana.

“From the wolf’s perspective, there’s no real difference in terms of your survival inside or outside the park.”

The research showed that wolves that spent their entire life in Banff had a better — about 84 per cent — chance of survival, but Hebblewhite noted that most wolves leave the park to follow prey.

“The most important winter range for elk in the whole Banff National Park ecosystem isn’t in the park,” he said. “It’s outside the park so the wolves go there and they get subjected to hunting and trapping.”

The study also found 36 per cent of all deaths were caused by trapping and 18 per cent were from hunting.

Wolves getting killed within the park were run over on the highway or on the railway tracks, or put down because they got into human food.

“Inside the park isn’t perfect either,” said Hebblewhite.

Jesse Whittington, a wildlife ecologist in Banff National Park who co-authored the study, said he was pleased to see that some of the conservation measures adopted within the park have helped wolves.

“We fenced the Trans-Canada Highway and installed wildlife crossing structures, and those have substantially reduced wolf and other wildlife mortality on the highway,” he said. “That, in combination with our seasonal closures and travel restrictions, give wolves the habitat they need.”

He acknowledged there are still wolf deaths.

“Our biggest challenge is with highway intersections where secondary roads intersect,” he said. “We have cattle guards at these sites to deter wildlife, but wolves sometimes still travel across those and then, once they’re along the highway, face a high risk of mortality.”

Whittington said Banff lost two wolves during the summer in highway deaths and a third had to be put down because it got into human food at a campground.

“When these wolves become habituated or food conditioned, they become a risk to the public,” said Whittington, who noted that’s why parks staff try to educate visitors not to feed wildlife.

The study didn’t look at reproduction rates, but Whittington said the population has generally remained stable throughout the decades and wolves continue to be a key species in Banff National Park.

“They play a lot of roles in terms of regulating our ungulate populations,” he said. “That has cascading effects on the entire ecosystem.”

A high elk population, for example, can lead to overgrazing of vegetation. But when wolves keep elk numbers down, aspens and willows can regenerate, which can then help the songbird population, he said.

ALSO READ: Man charged after cougar harassed with a slingshot in Banff National Park

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Banff

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Terry Keogh, an RDN Transit driver, used his paramedic skills the morning of Jan. 22 after coming across an unconscious woman along his route in downtown Nanaimo. (RDN Transit photo)
RDN Transit driver stops his bus and helps get overdosing woman breathing again

Former EMT from Ireland performed CPR on a woman in downtown Nanaimo on Friday

The intersection at Moilliet Street and Despard Avenue where a 12-year-old boy was struck by an oncoming vehicle early November while crossing at a marked crosswalk. (Mandy Moraes photo)
City staff members, school district officials to discuss high-traffic Parksville intersection

Young boy suffered broken leg after being hit in Despard/Moilliet crossing

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Another staff member tests positive for COVID-19 at Nanaimo care home

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence employee is isolating, says Island Health

Actions of Vancouver Island RCMP emergency response team members prevented a potential head-on collision accident on the Trans-Canada Highway on Jan. 19, says Nanaimo RCMP. (News Bulletin file)
Eight cars evade vehicle driving on wrong side of highway, says Nanaimo RCMP

Incident occurred near Trans-Canada Highway-Morden Road intersection earlier this week

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

Most Read