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Parks Canada

Banff’s Christmas Surprise: A New Wolf Pack on the Fairholme Benchlands

Captured through Parks Canada's remote cameras, the newly-formed Fairholme wolf pack is a big expansion in Banff's local wolf population

Banff National Park is getting a cool Christmas gift – a new pack of wolves! A place called the Fairholme benchlands, close to Johnson Lake and the town of Banff, is where this new wolf pack hangs out. 

This year, they’ve even had baby wolves or pups.

Bow Valley pack summer pups | Parks Canada

Parks Canada has been watching this happen with their special remote cameras. They’ve seen not just more wolves in the area but also how the wolf groups change and grow.

Now, there are two wolf groups in the Banff area. One is the Bow Valley group, which has been around for a long time. The other is the new Fairholme group.

Blair Fyten, who studies how people and wildlife can live together, has seen the leader of the Bow Valley group interacting with the new Fairholme group. This might mean the two groups are related. 

The dominant female of the Bow Valley group might have even helped start the Fairholme group, with one of her daughters becoming the leader of the new group.

The cameras have shown that the Fairholme group has four adult wolves and two pups. This is the first time since 2016 that pups have been born and grown up in the Fairholme benchlands.

The Bow Valley group has about six adult wolves and eight pups. But, recent sightings suggest that only ten of these wolves might be active right now. This change in numbers is normal, as baby wolves often don’t survive their first year.

Wolf groups have big territories, sometimes over 1,000 square kilometres. These territories can change as wolves leave to join other groups or start new ones. The Fairholme group, even though it’s new, has been hard to spot.


On the other hand, the Bow Valley wolf pack is often seen by people. Lately, they’ve been spotted near places where people are, like cars on the Bow Valley Parkway. This has made them popular with people who like to take pictures of wild animals, especially wildlife photographers

But, the Bow Valley pack’s bravery around cars is worrying. It could mean that the wolves are getting used to food from people. This could lead to dangerous situations and might mean that wildlife managers have to step in. 

Parks Canada is keeping a close eye on this and is asking people to tell them if they see anyone feeding                                                                        the wolves. Feeding wolves can have awful results. Often, wolves that get too used to people have to be killed. 

Interestingly, none of the wolves in the Bow Valley pack have GPS collars that are working right now. The dominant female wolf, called wolf No. 1701, does have a collar, but it’s not working. The wildlife team wants to put collars on at least two wolves in each pack to learn more about how they move and live. 

But putting collars on wolves is hard. Fyten says it’s tough to find the right time to put a collar on these elusive animals. 

The new Fairholme wolf pack in Banff National Park shows how tough and adaptable wolves are. But it also reminds us that we need to be careful about how we act around wild animals in protected areas.
Hopefully, because the Fairholme benchlands have regular seasonal closures from human activity, the new pack will be less likely to be involved in human-wildlife conflicts.

Bow Valley pack in 2021 feeding on an elk | Parks Canada

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