Wildlife officers at Banff National Park recently euthanized a wolf whose behaviour worried conservation experts.
It came one week after the park posted a warning for the Bow Valley region due to a pack of wolves that entered a campsite at Tunnel Mountain, and one that displayed “extremely bold” behaviour.
“This wolf…was not fazed by campers’ efforts to scare it away,” Bill Hunt, resource conservation manager with Banff National Park, told the Calgary Herald.
Instead, the campers were forced to get into their vehicle for safety, and the wolf made off with a loaf of bread, which was packed away in a closed cooler.
“History has shown that food-conditioned carnivores present a clear risk to visitor safety,” Hunt told CBC News. “This wolf was involved in a number of incidents involving people and food.”
According to reports, the pack has been involved in four more incidents since the initial warning, including one that involved a wolf entering a site at Johnston Canyon campground, and another that followed a woman walking her dog in the nearby town of Banff.
Officials killed the wolf only after consulting with wildlife management experts, reviewing scientific literature, and carefully considering other options, Parks Canada said.
“In terms of risk management, it was appropriate to euthanize the animal,” Hunt told the Herald.
The wolf was the alpha female, which experts say could pose an issue for the rest of the pack. There are at least two pups at the pack’s den site, which will have to be reared by the other wolves, though Hunt says they should be old enough that they no longer require their mother for milk.
According to Paul Paquet, an adjunct professor at the University of Calgary and carnivore specialist with the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, there’s also an emotional impact for the wolves who’ve lost a member of their pack.
Hunt told reporters that they will be keeping a close eye on the remaining members, including the pups. They’re also hoping to restore a more natural, fearful behaviour in the pack through what’s known as “aversive conditioning.” To do so, they’ll shoot off paint ball guns with chalk bullets, making lots of noise to keep the wolves out of certain areas of the park.
Park visitors are also being reminded to do their part. To avoid similar incidents in the future, it’s important visitors report any wolf sightings, keep food and garbage secure, and never feed wildlife.