Early Monday morning, Parks Canada received a call from a passing motorist about a wolf being on the Trans-Canada Highway just west of the Castle junction.
A wildlife technician was on the way to the scene when the animal got hit by another vehicle.
“If he had arrived a few minutes sooner, he may have been able to get the wolf off the road and behind fencing,” said Omar McDadi, a Parks Canada spokesman for the Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay field unit.
However, the yearling wolf was hit and killed by an unknown motorist before the technician arrived.
McDadi said it’s believed the wolf got onto the highway because the gate to a construction yard — where equipment and asphalt is kept for the twinning of the highway — was left open.
“There are question marks,” he said, noting parks officials are investigating all of the circumstances leading up to the wolf’s death.
The wolf was one of an estimated 35 wolves in Banff National Park and belonged to the Bow Valley wolf pack — tracked in the area by radio collars on the alpha male and alpha female’s necks.
The now five-member pack’s travels east of the Banff townsite through the Bow Valley to the north end of Kootenay National Park. They are often spotted along the Bow Valley Parkway.
“We really regret and are saddened by the loss of this wolf,” McDadi said. “Wolves are amazing creatures and we are lucky to have them in the national park.
“It’s a sad day for everyone when we lose a wolf.”
Mike McIvor, of the Bow Valley Naturalists, said the wolves in the Bow Valley are significant.
“They were wiped out at one time,” he said, noting they started showing up again in the 1980s due to a high elk population. “They are very much part of the ecosystem.”
McIvor said he’s disappointed to hear about another human-caused death of a wolf.
“Obviously they’re hanging on by a pretty thin thread when they are being killed on the railway track and the highway,” he said, noting it’s extremely unfortunate it appears to have been linked to a moment of carelessness.
McIvor said there should be closer monitoring, although he suggested it could become more difficult with a reduction in parks staff this summer due to federal budget cuts.
Starting next spring, Parks Canada will attempt to reduce wildlife mortality by preventing overnight traffic along the Bow Valley Parkway, from 8 p.m. until 8 a.m., between March 1 and June 25.
The overnight driving ban on the 17-kilometre stretch of roadway, which cuts through critical habitat for wolves, grizzly bears and moose, will give animals free rein to move about and feed in the critical spring months following winter hibernation.