Montana wildlife officials return wolf collar to Parks Canada

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Montana wildlife officials contacted Parks Canada recently after discovering a VHF wildlife collar in a forest near Biteroot Lake. After an investigation, it was revealed that the collar had previously been used as part of the study of Central Rocky Mountain wolves in Banff National Park used to track Wolf 57.

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Officials said the discovery underscores the importance of protecting wolf habitat, to facilitate safe movement through vast ecosystems.

Jesse Whittington, a Banff National Park wildlife ecologist, said Wolf 57 was a female wolf of the year, originally bonded on October 22, 2001 near Lake Minnewanka.

“At the time, the wolf was a young of the year in the Fairholme pack and was frequently tracked using telemetry by Parks Canada staff and researchers as part of a wolf study. said Whittington.

“The last detection of Wolf 57’s VHF signal was recorded on June 11, 2003 and has not been picked up again. The outcome of Wolf 57 was unknown for 19 years until recently. This is another example of healthy wolf dispersal in Banff National Park.

He said VHF collars don’t store data, so it’s unclear which route the wolf took to get to Montana, or how long he survived.

“It is not uncommon for wolves to travel from Banff to Montana during their dispersal. Such dispersals are an important indicator of the importance of wildlife corridors through the Rocky Mountains.

The last known dispersal of a Collared Wolf occurred in March 2020, when Wolf 2001, a two-year-old male, was tracked using a GPS collar from Banff, Montana, where he was legally harvested.

According to Whittington, to reach Montana, Wolf 57 likely passed through several national and provincial protected areas through the Rocky Mountains. Parks Canada emphasizes the importance of wildlife corridors and greater ecosystem connectivity.

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“Functioning wildlife corridors are an integral part of Banff National’s wolf population and are an indicator of ecosystem health. Parks Canada is taking several steps to maintain wildlife connectivity throughout Banff National Park.

“Large carnivores such as bears, wolves, cougars, and lynx have the greatest travel needs of any wildlife in Rocky Mountain ecosystems. Wolves are known to travel hundreds of miles in search of new habitat or new packs to join.

They are also known to avoid areas with high human use. By taking into account the movement needs of these animals, healthy predator/prey relationships are maintained. This in turn reduces the chances of producing an environment where habitual or common prey species dominate an ecosystem.

The necklace will be returned to Parks Canada, where it will be used for interpretive programs.

Based on the most recent data on the condition of the local wolf pack, Parks Canada confirmed this summer that the Bow Valley pack consists of three adults, three yearlings and five cubs. The pack had at least six pups in the spring of 2020, with no estimate of the number of pups this year. They said there were no sightings of pups, but based on the location of wolf activity and the status of wolf 1701, the pack is likely caring for the pups.

Parks Canada monitors wolf populations using a combination of remote cameras, snow tracking and visitor sighting reports.

The public is asked to report any wolf sightings to Banff Dispatch at 403-762-1470.

Elizabeth J. Harless