On Saturday, officials with Banff National Park received a call from CP Rail that an animal was hit by a train.
“A little grey wolf pup was killed,” said Bill Hunt, resource conservation manager with Banff National Park.
The death of the eight to 10-week old pup happened on the tracks near Hillsdale Meadows, an area along the Bow Valley Parkway where the wolves have a den.
During the past month, resource conservation officers in Banff National Park have been managing the highly visible wolf pack after one of its members approached some campers at Tunnel Mountain campground.They shot and killed the alpha female, or mother wolf, on June 7 after determining she had become aggressive because she had developed a taste for human food and garbage.
Another one of the pack members was darted and fitted with a monitoring collar a few days later, meaning three of the four grown wolves in the pack — including the alpha male — can be closely watched.
Officials had spotted at least two pups near the den site as they’ve managed the pack.
Hunt said they’ve now had a secondhand report from a visitor that there are four wolf pups, which means there could still be three left.
“There’s a 40 to 60 per cent mortality range for wolf pups,” he noted.
Although it’s within the normal range ecologically, it’s still unfortunate news for the beleaguered pack and wildlife officials.
“We’ve been working hard to keep this group healthy,” said Hunt.
They continue to monitor the wolves, working to keep them wary of people through an aversive conditioning program.
It involves using telemetry to determine when a wolf enters the townsite or campgrounds, then hazing them out of the area.
Wildlife officers jump out of their cars at the wolves, use noisemakers such as cracker pistols and fire paintball guns with chalk bullets to chase the wolves out of the Banff townsite and campgrounds.
“There have only been two instances where they’ve been hazed out,” said Hunt, noting both times were around Johnston Canyon and the wolves responded appropriately.
There have been no further reports of wolves approaching people for food.
“That’s encouraging,” he said. “It’s still too early to say if we’ll be successful.”
Hunt reminded residents and visitors that everyone has a part of play to ensure what’s happening with the wolf pack doesn’t happen again.
As a result, they are targeting and ticketing illegal campers, telling visitors not to litter and reminding people not to feed any of the wildlife in the park.