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Human Food Kills Wolves

Wild wolves are shy and elusive. Like many wild animals, wolves are generally fearful of people and do well at avoiding them. Although attacks by healthy wild wolves can occur, these events are extremely rare and unusual despite growing numbers of wolves worldwide. A person in wolf country has a greater chance of being killed by a dog, lightning, a bee sting or a car collision with a deer than being injured by a wolf. But when an unprovoked attack by a healthy wild wolf does occur, it’s most likely the result from a wolf that has become fearless of humans due to habituation – usually to human food.

Habituation to human food leads to unhealthy interactions between wildlife and people – the animal is usually the worse for the experience.

Parks Canada has been struggling over the past few years with wildlife habituation issues in  Banff National Park. Just last week, park officials reluctantly killed two wolves who were highly food conditioned – a female wolf and an emaciated young male.

Parks Canada has worked hard to try to prevent wolves from becoming habituated in the park, including collaring wolves to monitor behavior, aversion conditioning, relocation, expanding public education, and closing campgrounds to the public.

Despite these efforts, people have continued to provide food rewards to wolves at at the park by leaving human food and trash out at campgrounds in violation of national park rules.

Officials deliberately killed an unhealthy wolf in 2019 who weighed just 40 lbs, and two other habituated wolves in 2016 after they repeatedly exhibited bold behavior around people.

Habituation is not restricted to Banff wolves, Yellowstone National Park has faced problems as well. In May of 2009, for the first time since Yellowstone National Park’s gray wolf recovery program began, rangers had to kill a yearling male wolf from the Gibbon Meadow Pack because he had become too accustomed to turning to people for food. In October of 2011, park officials killed an adult member of Mollie’s Pack following a history of fearless behavior in the presence of humans, repeated visitation to developed areas within the park, and numerous unsuccessful hazing attempts.  Each of these factors was indicative of the wolf’s potential habituation to human food, which posed an increased risk to park visitors and staff.

Hopefully these wolves and their untimely deaths will serve as an important reminder that we all need to respect wildlife. Habituation to human food leads to unhealthy interactions between wildlife and people – the animal is usually the worse for the experience.

Key to Helping Wildlife – Leave No Trace

Camping provides a mental and physical escape from the busy schedule of everyday life, which makes preserving the beauty of nature essential to keeping this pastime alive.

“Leave No Trace” camping keeps these natural areas intact for the protection of wildlife and the enjoyment of campers, including yourself, for years to come. Whether it’s to properly dispose of your wastewater or to practice proper camping etiquette, Leave No Trace refers to the idea of making your presence in nature unknown and minimizing your lasting impact on the surrounding habitats.