Nearly three months after a pack of wolves first started hunting around the Banff townsite, they continue to be spotted along popular trails — even making treks into town.In August, two of the five wolves chased and killed a deer on Cougar Street in the middle of the townsite. The new pack has since been spotted eating an elk calf along Vermilion Lakes and eating another elk along 40 Mile Creek near the popular Fenland Loop trail in late September.
In early October, they were also seen on a carcass along Sundance Trail. “There’s still been ongoing activity with the wolves in the last few weeks, primarily around the periphery of the Banff townsite,” Steve Michel, a human/wildlife conflict specialist with Banff National Park, said Wednesday. “They have made small forays into the townsite at times.”
However, he said they are primarily in the areas around the golf course, Tunnel Mountain, the Cave and Basin, Vermilion Lakes and through the Whiskey Creek area. “We’ve seen pretty consistent movement in all areas surrounding the townsite,” he said.
There have been no incidents involving people, but the wolves have been regularly spotted by residents and visitors as they feed on prey such as deer and elk in some of those areas. “That’s totally normally behaviour for wolves,” he said, “but the unusual part is that it’s been in quite high-use areas.”
He said there’s a level of indifference by the wolves to high human-use areas, but they aren’t approaching people or exhibiting any aggression toward humans or pets in the townsite. “They’ve got a reasonable level of habituation,” he said, noting the proximity to people does raise some concern — particularly when they are feeding on an elk or deer close to a popular trail.
Michel noted the carcass could also attract grizzly bears as they feed before going into their dens for the winter. “With any predator, you could have a degree of a defensive response,” he explained. “The other concern is that the more time they spend in areas of high human-use, the more likely they are to have encounters with people and the more likely they are to have a negative encounter because people do something wrong.”
As examples, he said an off-leash dog could set off an encounter or food attractants could change their behaviour. “Typically, the rare instances where the wolves do get aggressive toward people or make contact with people are often as a result of them being food conditioned to human food or garbage,” he said. “Wolf attacks on people are extremely rare.”
There’s no indication, however, that the wolf pack around the Banff townsite is being food conditioned. “Not at all,” said Michel.
Should anyone encounter the wolves, he said it’s important to keep your distance, your children close and your pets on a leash. Officials also ask any sightings also be reported to Banff dispatch at 403-762-1470.