SPENCER VAN DYK, BOW VALLEY CRAG AND CANYON
The Bow Valley wolf pack, which was as strong as five last summer, is no more.
The breeding pair that arrived in the valley around the summer of 2014 have since mated and moved on. Of the six pups they had last summer, none survived, and they were left with only the three they bore in 2015.
“It’s very easy for wildlife to become conditioned, and as soon as they taste human food, they can become instantly hooked on it, and unfortunately that increases their risk of mortality,” said wildlife ecologist for Parks Canada Jesse Whittington, adding it is also more dangerous for humans when animals become immune to aversive conditioning.
The breeding female and one of the yearlings were destroyed last year after they became very habituated to people and had several close human encounters.
The breeding male also left the Bow Valley and joined another pack this past spring, and there have been no signs of the remaining yearling for about a month.
As of last winter, the pack was down to three: the breeding male and two pups. One of those yearlings wandered into B.C., where it was later shot.
Whittington said there have still been sightings of single wolves, but no pack, which is not unusual considering the vast range the animals have.
He said wolves have a “phenomenal influence on entire ecosystem,” because they keep the number of prey in check, mostly grazing animals that can become too numerous and in turn have a cascading effect on the system.
Wolves also predate the easiest-to-kill animals, like the old, sick, and young, which keeps the prey population under control and healthy.
Whittington said there is still plenty of room for optimism.
“We’re hopeful that wolves will have another pack formed in the next few years, but for this year, I would expect that deer, elk, and moose in the Bow Valley will have higher reproductive rates and higher survival rates,” he said.