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CA AB: Bow Valley Wolf pack appears healthy after almost disappearing

Pack is still missing a breeding pair after alpha male was killed in May, but expert expects that to change

CBC News

The wolf pack in Alberta’s Bow Valley almost disappeared a few years ago when several wolves were killed, but an expert says it appears to be healthy now despite still missing a breeding pair. 

The alpha male of the pack was run over and killed on the Trans-Canada Highway in May.     

Since then, about six or seven wolves from the pack have been spotted in Banff National Park.

“Sometimes wolves from elsewhere will come in and will become one of the breeding members and that could either be with the current breeding female or a different female,” said Jesse Whittington, a wildlife ecologist with Parks Canada. 

“The pack could dissolve and disperse and a new pair of wolves could move in, but at this point in time I think that is unlikely just given how the wolves are continuing to use the Bow Valley.”

He thinks a new breeding pair will emerge over the winter, and that wolves typically breed in February. That could mean new pups in the spring.

In fall 2017, Parks Canada staff estimated that the pack had gone from at least nine members in the spring of 2016 to none.

Two of the wolves had been shot by Parks Canada officers for aggressive behaviour after the animals became used to human food and lingered near campgrounds. A third was shot by a hunter outside the park in southeastern British Columbia.

None of the pack’s pups survived. Four of them were killed by trains.

A recent wolf pack sighting near Banff has park officials concerned. (Submitted by Andrew Hempstead)

Then the last two remaining members moved on, with one joining a pack of four or five wolves in the southern part of the park called the Spray pack. 

At the time, Parks Canada staff predicted the wolves would eventually move back into the Bow Valley because there was a lot of wildlife to feed on including elk, deer, moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats.