Wolves are a polarizing animal – many love them and what they represent, others would shoot them on sight, no questions asked. I see them as an integral part of the food chain in the ecosystems where they still exist. In the Banff National Park they are not thriving but the pack of five that I watched take down an elk in late February, are finding their way and I hope they are able to raise pups this spring.
There is one black wolf, one of the younger ones in the pack I have been told, which is a beautiful creature. He seems to be a bit more curious than the others and once the elk was down strode across the bridge deck to the edge of the forest seeming to be momentarily more interested in assessing his surroundings than joining the feast.
I look forward to this wolf and his pack continuing to occupy their rightful place as a carnivore in the Bow Valley’s food web.
We were in Banff to celebrate my father’s birthday on the weekend. Sunday morning I was on my own and I decided to explore the Bow Valley Parkway as I have not spent any time there this winter. I stopped at the lookout above the Backswamp and was there for a while before I noticed a light-colored wolf laying down out in the middle of the plain. Some small motion must have caught my eye finally because I had mistaken her for a tree stump from that distance of close to a kilometer. Once I started watching this wolf, a companion cleared the forest and trotted over to the first one. They were pointed west and when they met up, the two wolves slipped across the snow in that direction. I lost sight of them behind the tall trees on the river’s edge a couple of minutes later.
These were the first wolves that I had seen anywhere in the Banff National Park so I did not that to be the end of this encounter. I thought I would try to flank them by driving further west to Muleshoe where I could park and then hike down to the river. The hope being to meet up with the wolves when they passed by – if they did go that way and I was able to notice them.
When I got to Muleshoe, I slung my camera and tripod over my shoulder and started down. My stroll was a bit more arduous than anticipated as the crust of snow was thin so most of my steps broke through. This slowed my progress a bit but it paid off well once I got down to the tracks. There, about two hundred meters east of me, were the two wolves walking briskly along the train tracks. I watched them quietly for a minute before the sound of an approaching train drew their attention and the wolves ran into the forest. The pale wolf went north towards the lower slopes of the mountains along the Parkway. That was my last glimpse of that beautiful creature on the day. The black one slipped into a thin line of trees between the tracks and the river and disappeared.
When the train had passed, I discovered my new friend crossing the snow-covered ice at a bend in the river. The black wolf caught sight of me at that point and hastened to the other side.
Once on the far bank, I was drawn in by the gleaming yellow eyes that stared out above the snow where it had just laid down to watch me.
The wolf waited for more than a few minutes, even laying its head on the snow suggesting it may have a nap, before getting up again.
Stretching a little as it stood up, the wolf kept its eyes on me and then walked in an arc away from me and north towards the tracks. Against the dormant nest of branches I photographed the wolf a couple more times. Then it dashed up the berm to the railway, crossed the line and disappeared into the brush on the northern side.
It was a special first encounter with a couple of the Bow Valley wolf pack. I hope to see them in another quiet moment again soon.