Wednesday, April 6, 2011

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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11 Comments:

Blogger Hendrik said...

Great article! The news mentioned that two adult wolves were hanging around where this happened, I did not find anything about them later. Do you know if they at least survived?

April 6, 2011 at 8:16 PM  
Blogger lynn said...

John, I feel your passion and sadness over this... I too have many animal 'friend/subjects' that have gotten shot or run over and it leaves sick feeling in ones stomach. Such tragic and unnecessary loss. I have written to PC and CPR last year and gotten standard 'we are trying' answers. I hope that you will send this very well written to the papers as well as a 'letter to editor'....
Maybe we should stage a 'sit in' on the tracks...we could get a bunch of folks to sit/stand on tracks and stop the train for a bit....? I would be in! Maybe we could do it all along the track in various areas throughout Canada.
Just curious are the wolves and bears on the tracks to eat prey that has been killed on them or just traveling along on the tracks?

April 6, 2011 at 9:19 PM  
Blogger Srihari Yamanoor said...

Sad to hear that! Can anything be done about trains?

April 7, 2011 at 12:20 AM  
Anonymous Sue Parkes said...

How sad. Such beautiful animals. I love all wildlife but have a passion for wolves and remember my delight at seeing one in the wild in Banff (living in England had previously only seen them in a zoo park.

April 7, 2011 at 3:19 AM  
Anonymous Stephen Desroches said...

This story is depressing on so many levels. I don't even know where to begin with my level of frustration on the treatment, respect and protection of our wildlife in a place we both call home. Not specific to this single story but in general. It drives me crazy on how destructive humans can be - it's embarrassing.

April 7, 2011 at 7:05 AM  
Anonymous Sarah Fassina said...

Human beings often forget to be just GUESTS on EARTH! So instead of protecting the beauty of NATURE for the next generations they rather destroy it!

April 7, 2011 at 10:22 AM  
Anonymous Carleen said...

This is so incredibly sad and to have it go pretty much unnoticed by Parks Canada and or CPR is a crime. What can we do John to help change this?

April 7, 2011 at 10:40 AM  
Anonymous Stephen Desroches said...

Shortly after reading this, CBC sends me this local story. What a day. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/story/2011/04/07/pei-coyote-hunting-584.html

April 7, 2011 at 10:53 AM  
Anonymous steve woods said...

Hi John, another tragedy goes on and nothing done by parks Canada as usual
this story brought tears of sorrow and anger at such a senseless loss
when will Parks Canada start to do something to protect what's left of the precious bear and wolf population, I heard on the news that the CPR has signed some sort of supposed deal to start build fences in high risk areas along the tracks but have yet to see anything being done, please send your story to all the papers and maybe include the responses here, there need's to be something done before all the bears and wolves are gone, thanks for all you do john keep fighting the good fight I'm with you .

April 7, 2011 at 12:12 PM  
Anonymous Wilfried Wellens said...

This is so sad that one becomes depressed. I'm from Belgium and visited, together with my daughter and in 2009 together with my wife, Banff National Park already eight times, every time for 5 weeks to take wildlife photo's. (I'm a passionated amateur and in love with Canada). I take this opportunity to say a couple of words as a foreign visitor. The CPR is an economic factor and the start of the Park. You can't stop the train at the entrance and a fence is no option because this will split the Park in two halves. But perhaps a solution could be found by constructing a lot of underpasses. My last visit (July/August 2009) showed a lot of traffic on the Bow Valley Parkway at high speeds. I think this traffic is more from locals speeding home and taking the Bow Valley Parkway as an alternative for tha Trans Canada due to the large construction areas on the Trans Canada. I think that reducing this traffic can easely be done. Construct an enterance at both sides of the Bow Valley Parkway with a supplemetary Bow Valley Parkway Pass that's only guilty for one week and at price so that it is no alternative for the Trans Canada. This will keep the traffic on Trans Canada and the Parkway would only attract visitors interested in wildlife and scenery; so not speeding at all (speed limit 30km controlable with mobile speed cameras that are set up every morning by the wardens on a different place before opening the Parkway) . The supplementary income can be used for conservation and the construction the underpasses. With this system you can also close the Parkway in the spring during the birthtime of the young animals and you can close the Parkway at night.
This year we are not coming to Banff, but my wife, daughter and I are going for five weeks (July/August) to Yellowstone, so we can compare how they manage a tourist crowd that is much larger than Banff and how they control the traffic speed.

April 7, 2011 at 2:41 PM  
Blogger GilBurt said...

Good story.

August 31, 2011 at 1:02 AM  

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