Saying Goodbye to Another Banff Wolf

On March 7, 2011, Banff's Pipestone wolf family lost another member when Meadow, the smallest member of the pack, was run over and killed by a Canadian Pacific Railway train in the Bow Valley.

I got the devastating news the day before I left for my holiday in Europe, with too little time to do much to get the word out about the tragedy. However, I did manage to send the local newsapers images of Meadow, along with several quotes and stories, in the hopes that her death would not be in vain.

For the first few days in Europe, I got up before my wife and went online to scour the Banff and Canmore newspaper's websites in anticipation of the backlash that was sure to arise from the loss of another of Banff's most prominent wolves to human causes. Sadly, all I could find was a tiny backpage mention, though a week later the paper had a scathing and heartfelt Letter to the Editor from my friend and colleague, Canmore wildlife photographer Peter A. Dettling, asking once again why Parks Canada was not acting in the face of this ongoing debacle.

A month later, just as I had feared, Meadow's death has now been all but forgotten -- another case of 'another month, another dead wolf/bear, another incident that Parks and the CPR do nothing about'.

In February 2011, it was a train mowing down an unknown black wolf near the Town of Banff.  Last June, it was a male grizzly.  Last May, one of the Bow Valley's last remaining female grizzlies.  Last winter (2010), it was Raven, a Pipestone wolf pup, thrown more than 30 metres by a speeding vehicle on the 60 km/hour Bow Valley Parkway.

And this time it was Meadow, a small, all-black female pup named by wolf behaviour expert Gunther Bloch.  She had become separated from her parents several days prior to the accident and was hanging out with her siblings, Chester and Lillian, when she was killed.  That her parents weren't around was likely a key factor in her death, as she was by far the most skittish of the pups and the most likely to panic without her parents' direction and expertise in traveling on the dangerous railway.

Meadow from the Pipestone wolf family, at six months old

Because of Meadow's slightly nervous disposition, she was often harder to photograph than the rest of the members of the pack.  Fortunately for me, whenever she was with her parents or older sister, Blizzard, she would often stay out of the trees just long enough for me to get a few good shots of her.

Meadow (left) coming up to greet her older sister, Blizzard

Meadow's death is just another in a long line of wolves and bears that I have known and photographed, only to one day get the call that they've died at the hands of humans.

Meanwhile, Parks Canada plods on with their caribou and bison reintroduction programs, keeping a blind eye to the fact that we have far more pressing problems in our flagship national park.  Why aren't we fixing the existing issues before tackling new ones?  Why hasn't Parks Canada or the CPR done anything about the death sentence that they have consistently provided for the past 125 years for Bow Valley wildlife?  Why is this suddenly readily-available caribou and bison reintroduction money not being spent right here, right now, on the problems we already face.

Let me put it more bluntly.  Who cares if we have bison and caribou if we don't have bears and wolves?

The count is already at two wolves just three months into this year, and Meadow is long forgotten on the desks of those who are supposed to be in charge of protecting her and her family.  What's next in store for Banff's wildlife?  And hopefully, the question isn't really: Who is next?

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