Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Officials in Banff National Park issue warning after close encounters with wolf pack

By Colette Derworiz, Postmedia
First posted:
File photo
Banff Park officials have issued a public warning after some close encounters between humans and a well known pack of wolves.

The incidents have occurred in the past few weeks, prompting the alert.

“There was certainly no contact, there was no aggression on the part of the wolves,” said Steve Michel, human/wildlife conflict specialist with Banff National Park, “but all of these are incidents that concern us.”

The encounters come after several high-profile scenes involving the same wolf pack that has been spending time around the Banff townsite since last summer — including a dramatic takedown of an elk on the railway overpass near Banff.

Michel said it’s not an issue when the wolves hunt prey such as elk or deer, because they are acting naturally.

They did, however, start to get concerned in January when the wolves were observed eating garbage in the Johnston Canyon parking lot — and he said the incidents in the past month have only increased concerns about the pack’s habituation.

“We’ve had wolves sighted on the Tunnel Mountain trail in the middle of the day,” said Michel.
“We’ve had a wolf following a person with a dog along the Bow River, we’ve had wolves come in close proximity to people in areas along the golf course.

“We had a wolf approach a cyclist on the weekend that was having a break along the Bow Valley Parkway and then when she got nervous and pedalled away, that wolf and a couple other wolves loped behind her for a short distance.”

Some of the workers involved with the AltaLink power line replacement have also been approached by the wolf pack.

Michel said the incidents provide a timely reminder to people to brush up on how to be safe around wildlife in the national park as the bears continue to emerge from their dens.

Bear spray can also be used if a wolf shows any aggression.

“Wolf attacks on humans are very rare,” said Michel.

“Wolf attacks on dogs are not rare — they are somewhat common — so people need to be really cautious of their pets and keep a close eye on small children that might be perceived as prey.”