Park visitor photographs wolf pack feeding on garbage in Banff

Wolf pack

After a visitor witnessed three wolves eating garbage near the town of Banff, park officials are crossing their fingers it doesn’t become a habit.

Visitor Andrew Hempstead spotted the wolves in a parking lot after checking out the newly restored trail at Johnston Canyon last week.

He noticed something moving in the parking lot, and quickly realized they were wolves. With that, he hopped in his minivan and grabbed his camera.

“They were completely oblivious to me, probably 50 or 60 yards away,” Hempstead told CBC News. That’s because they were more focused on food.

Photo by Andrew Hempstead/CBC News

Initially, he couldn’t tell what the wolves were eating, but once he realized that they were feeding on garbage, including fast food wrappers and paper cups, he called officials with Parks Canada.

“This was a very concerning report,” David Gummer, a wildlife ecologist with the park, told the Calgary Sun. Feeding or approaching wild animals too closely can cause them to lose their natural fear. As they become increasingly habituated, Parks Canada says they can become more aggressive. It can also attract animals to roadside areas where they’re more likely to be killed or injured by vehicles. The fear is that the garbage could do the same. That’s why officials like Gummer are hoping it’s an isolated incident.

Photo by Andrew Hempstead/CBC News

It’s not known how much trash the wolves ate, but the garbage lying on the ground had fallen from two open construction bins, which are normally used for trade waste. Park officials are looking into the incident to determine whether or not charges should be laid. In the meantime, they’ll continue to watch the wolves.

“Over the coming days and weeks, we’ll be monitoring the wolves’ behaviour closely to see if they try to seek out garbage or food associated with people, and of course we are crossing our fingers we won’t be seeing that kind of behaviour,” Gummer told CBC News.

As for park guests, Gummer recommends they always toss their garbage into bear-proof bins to prevent this problem in the future.