BY CATHY ELLIS
YA HA TINDA – A wolf pack killed a horse at Parks Canada’s Ya Ha Tinda Ranch -earlier this month – the first time this has happened in the ranch’s 102-year history.
According to Parks Canada, tracks showed the wolf pack came from Scalp Creek on the evening of March 12, and travelled by a pasture where 12 colts were kept.
“The colts were spooked enough to break open the gate and got out into a larger area,” said Bill Hunt, resource conservation manager for Banff National Park.
“One of the yearlings was caught and taken by the wolves. Parks Canada staff discovered the remains the following morning.”
Two male wolves in the pack were fitted recently with GPS collars, so Parks Canada can track their movements as part of research on bison reintroduction and elk movement and migration.
The wolves had taken down an elk a few days earlier in the northwest part of the ranch, and are still in the area hunting elk.
Hunt said the colts were moved, noting the staff and research students are doing daily checks on wolf activity around the ranch.
“We’ve moved all the colts right up to near the main building and added additional solar lights to raise the alarm if the wolves come close,” he said.
Ya Ha Tinda, about 150 kilometres northwest of Calgary, is Parks Canada’s only working horse ranch. There, they train all of the horses that are used in national parks in Western Canada.
Hunt said the incident left staff at the ranch upset.
“It’s very upsetting for staff. These animals are hand reared and cared for,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate incident.”
Hunt believes this is a one-off event at the ranch, adding the wolves have been more interested in elk and shown no interest in horses since the incident.
“I think the wolves came out of the creek, spooked the horses and that stimulated a chase response,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s something that’s going to reoccur, but we’re going to take any precautions we can put in place to make sure,” he added.
“In the 102-year history of Ya Ha Tinda ranch, this is the first time this has ever happened, to our knowledge,” Hunt said.
Parks Canada reported the incident to Alberta Environment and Parks because that’s the agency responsible for wildlife management in the province, which includes the ranch.
“These wolves are showing no aggression towards people,” added Hunt.