Five Bow Valley wolf pups were photographed early in the morning on June 26, 2016, as two yearlings were nearby.
Rick Nash / For Postmedia
For the second time in as many years, the fragile Bow Valley wolf pack has birthed a litter of pups.While unknown how many have been born, Parks Canada wildlife ecologist Jesse Whittington estimated them to be around three months old.“We don’t know exactly how many pups were born, we’ve received a few reports of fleeting sightings,” he said. “The pups are around three months old and getting old enough to start travelling further afield.”The birth of the pups in Banff National Park will help to stabilize the pack, which was down to only one yearling in 2016.That wolf, Whittington said, is now the breeding female in the pack, adding the group is now up to four wolves, not including the recently birthed pups.“We’re thrilled this wolf is continuing to make the Bow Valley her home,” he said. “This pack travels throughout the Bow Valley region far and wide looking for food. We just extended a closure on the northside of the Bow Valley parkway until August 31st and that’s to provide them with secure habitat to go about their business undisturbed from people.“That closure does not affect any trails, facilities or roads, so people can still come and recreate throughout Banff National Park.”
A female wolf with pups caught on remote camera in Banff National Park. Postmedia file
Parks Canada /
For the Calgary Herald
In May, officials collard a female yearling from the pack after they expressed concern of her becoming food-conditioned. But Whittington expressed relief due to the fact that over the last few months, they haven’t been spending time in high-use areas.While officials don’t do den site observations for the wolf pack, meaning it’s not exactly known how many pups were born, Whittington said wolves usually birth a small litter of around five or six pups. Of the pups born last year, only two survived. This is due to their higher mortality rates than adults, Whittington added.“Wolves are generally boom-bust animals, they’ll do really well for a couple years and then they might struggle for a couple of years,” he said. “Wolf pack sizes are determined primarily by the amount of prey on the landscape.“Sometimes, this time of year their packs will start travelling up to the higher elevations. A lot of prey will migrate up towards the alpine because there’s more nutritious food up there for them. At this point, (the Bow Valley wolf pack) is concentrating their movements in the valley, but we’ll see what happens in the summer.”In June 2016, officials were forced to euthanize the then-alpha female of the pack, as well as one of her offspring yearlings due to food-conditioned behaviour in July.The pack suffered even more setbacks when four pups were struck by trains in the park.In some years, Whittington said there’s a Fairholme wolf pack that sometimes ventures between Banff and Canmore ranging north to the Ghost River. But for the past few years, they haven’t been around, so the Bow Valley wolf pack has since assumed that as part of their territory, Whittington firstname.lastname@example.orgOn Twitter: @zjlaing