BY TANYA FOUBERT, FOR THE CALGARY HERALD
CANMORE — A female wolf has been hit and killed by a vehicle on the Trans-Canada Highway near Lac des Arcs.
Alberta park ecologist Melanie Percy said the smoky grey wolf was found Wednesday morning along the highway.
She said there was evidence the wolf had previously been wearing a GPS collar and for that reason it is believed she was part of the Bow Valley pack in Banff National Park.
The wolf had apparently been making its way east, but Percy noted that once past the park gates, the valley is a very difficult place for wolves to exist because of high levels of human use, particularly in the area where she was struck.
“That is a real pinch point for wildlife movement there,” she said. “Due to the natural and human-caused fragmentation, there is limited opportunity for movement.”
The section of highway at Lac des Arcs features the steep slopes of the geography, the body of water and four lanes of traffic squeezed in between.
Steve Michel, human wildlife conflict specialist for Banff National Park, said there is a high probability the wolf was an identifiable member of the pack, which ranges in the park between Lake Louise and Banff.
That wolf was born in the spring of 2010 and had a collar on it programmed to drop off in mid-December.
Michel said before she lost her collar, the wolf had been taking off on her own and spending more and more time away from the pack establishing her own territory, a process known as dispersal.
“We did not know where she had ended up until we heard about the mortality,” he said. “It was likely her first time in that area.”
He added the wolf, known as No. 1101, was already notorious for frequently getting onto the Trans-Canada Highway in the national park despite the wildlife exclusion fencing in place.
While another wolf that dispersed from the pack last year has established his own territory in Kananaskis Country, Michel said it is difficult to say what the female wolf’s future may have been and it is a loss for the ecosystem.
“Any time we have a large carnivore killed, particularly on the transportation corridor, it is a loss for the ecosystem of the Bow Valley,” he said.
“Unfortunately a great deal of wildlife in the Bow Valley don’t get to live a life where they die a natural death because of the frequency of human-caused mortality.”
However, Michel added that Parks Canada is working hard to reduce wildlife mortality and mitigate the causes.