(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.

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

Banff

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

Just Posted

Dion Hrushkin, (L) Nathan Hrushkin (centre) and Francois Therrien at the Nodwell property. Photo by NCC
Twelve-year old boy finds dinosaur fossil during summer trek in Alberta’s Badlands

The find indeed marks an exciting chapter in Nathan Hrushkin’s growing fascination with palaeontology

Heart
Online sessions help participants improve heart health

Heart Wise offers effective strategies to manage cholesterol and blood pressure

Moonrise over the Castor grain elevator, a part of the Castor & District Museum, on Aug. 27th, 2020. Kevin J. Sabo photo
Castor Municipal Council approves funding of Castor Museum Project

Total cost for the project is estimated at just under $2,000

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID-19: One more death in central zone

Ponoka County on province’s watchlist

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020.	Kenney is isolating at home after one of his ministers tested positive for COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Alberta premier isolating after minister tests positive for COVID-19

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is isolating at home

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Alberta's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday, July 6, 2020. Advisers are reportedly recommending Alberta's kindergarten to Grade 4 arts and social studies curriculum remove all references to residential schools because it's "too sad" for young children. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Advisers suggest Alberta students not learn about residential schools before Grade 4

Documents suggest children younger than Grade 4 are too emotionally vulnerable to learn about residential schools

robbery
UPDATE: Shooting suspect arrested by Wetaskiwin/Camrose RCMP

Rimbey RCMP had responded to a complaint of an armed robbery at the Bluffton City General Store

File photo
RCMP’s response to online discussions about anti-racism demonstrations

Ponoka RCMP Staff Sgt.’s comments misattributed online

Shaelynn Decock and her dog Taco, who has been missing since Aug. 26. Photo Submitted
Sylvan Lake woman looking for closure for her stolen dog

Shaelynn Decock says it has been two months since she last saw her dog Taco

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau and his family decide against trick-or-treating this year due to COVID

Adhering to local health authorities, Trudeau urges Canadians to do their part in following those guidelines

Most Read