Sunday, June 19, 2016

Concern about wolves prompts Banff Marathon route change


By Zach Laing, Bow Valley Crag & Canyon

Pam Doyle/ Crag & Canyon Archives.
Pam Doyle/ Crag & Canyon Archives.
The route for the full and half distance Banff Marathon courses has changed due to wildlife activity, race officials said Friday. “There is a wolf pack that we know has been a persistent wildlife issue for the town of Banff,” said Banff Marathon Race Director Stephanie O’Brien. “That, in addition to heightened wildlife activity along Highway 1A, has resulted in Parks Canada along with the marathon to use our Legacy Trail route.”

The decision came down just weeks after the mother of the wolf pack was put down due to her pack rummaging through garbage and food in a Tunnel Mountain campsite. It also comes nine days after an adult black bear approached a vehicle with a person inside, and tore through a tent in search of food.

The original route took runners along the Vermillion Lakes and the Bow Valley Parkway towards Johnson Canyon. With the change, runners will instead take the Legacy Trail east towards Canmore, with full distance runners turning around at the park gate.

Stephanie Zyvatkauskas, the public outreach and education officer for Banff National Park, said the route change was made to decrease human activity on the Bow Valley Parkway and reduce stress on the wolf pack. “We're continuing to actively manage the habituated wolves on the Bow Valley Parkway, and Vermilion Lakes,” she said. “This will include monitoring, diverse conditioning, as well as the implementation of the wildlife warnings, which have been in place for a little bit and those warnings... include the east and west sections of the Legacy Parkway and the Legacy Trail.”

In order to take part in the marathon, runners had to complete an education session making them aware of how to deal with wildlife. “You will see an increased amount of signage and warnings along the route,” said O’Brien. “Parks Canada has been pretty clear with the message they are doing adverse conditioning with those wolves so they don’t want to have the wrong stimulus at the wrong time. “It’s a lot of work to move to a secondary route, but we are ready for it.”

The Legacy Trail will be closed from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. The section of trail from Canmore to the Banff park east gate will remain open.

The 10-kilometre race course route is unaffected.

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