Jasper National Park

Pyramid Bench Dog Restriction Lifted

What’s happening?

November 16th: The dog restriction in the Pyramid Bench area has been lifted.

Following recent interactions between wolves and dogs in Jasper National Park, including an aggressive encounter with an on-leash dog that resulted in wildlife specialists having to destroy the wolf, the Pyramid Bench area was closed to dog-walking through a temporary restricted activity order.

This closure allowed wildlife specialists to assess the level of habituation in remaining Pyramid pack members by analyzing remote camera images, occurrences of wolf tracks, human use and reports of wolves in the closed area. Findings show that both the pack and people have been using the Pyramid Bench area, and no aggressive encounters have been reported. Encounters between Resource Conservation staff and wolves in this area indicated the wolves were appropriately wary.

As the other pack members appear to remain naturally wary of people, the assessment determined there is not an unusual risk to safety and the restriction was lifted on Nov. 16, 2012. A warning remains in effect for the area.

Background

Wolf caught on remote camera 
Wolves caught on remote camera
© Parks Canada

Parks Canada’s priority is to provide for the long term viability of wildlife in the national parks including native predator populations. Jasper National Park has approximately 80-100 wolves, considered an appropriate number in relation to the size of the park. In cases where the interaction between humans and predators in an area is a concern, the first step is to manage human use of the area, as occurred with the temporary restriction on the Pyramid Bench.

The restriction was initially implemented on October 17th, 2012, following an incident in which a wolf attacked an on-leash dog in Jasper National Park. The wolf, believed to have been part of the Pyramid wolf pack known to frequent and hunt in the Pyramid Bench area, did not come into contact with the dog's owner, who, using bear spray and retreating into a passing vehicle, prevented serious injury to his dog. To protect the public, Parks Canada destroyed the wolf.

A necropsy of the wolf showed her to be a healthy female free from disease. The purpose of the temporary restriction was to assess whether this wolf was the only habituated pack member, or if other members of the Pyramid pack have learned the same behaviour. Resource conservation staff monitored the area and the wolf pack’s behaviour using remote cameras, tracking and reported observations. The assessment determined that the pack appears to remain wary of people, although there is still uncertainty regarding how they will react to dogs.

Habituation of this wolf and potentially other members of the pack likely occurred as a result of encounters with off-leash dogs. All previous incidents involved off-leash dogs; evidence suggests these encounters could likely have been prevented if the dogs were on-leash. While wolves normally exhibit wariness towards humans, chasing an off-leash dog at some distance from a person is considered normal wolf behaviour. Four such encounters with off-leash dogs have occurred since November 2011, two of which resulted in the death of the dogs. Those resulting in predation on the dogs likely reinforced undesirable wolf behaviour and led to the habituation of this wolf and potentially other members of the Pyramid wolf pack.

Because recent wolf habituation was directly linked to previous encounters with off-leash dogs, Parks Canada will be attempting to minimize wolf habituation by actively enforcing national park regulations requiring dogs to be on-leash and under control at all times. As a member of a national park community, you can show leadership and act as an ambassador for wildlife by keeping your dog on a leash.

A warning for the area remains in effect, and trail users are reminded to take usual precautions when traveling in any wilderness area. Parks Canada recommends traveling in groups, carrying bear-spray and a cell phone, and avoiding dusk and dawn.

Please report any carnivore sightings to Parks Canada by calling 780-852-6155. Reporting will help ensure the safety of other trail users as well as help prevent further habituation of wildlife. If you would prefer to report anonymously, you can do so by calling 1-877-852-3100.

Top Tips - 3 ways you can help protect wolves, dogs and people

  1. KEEP YOUR DOG ON A LEASH
    Repeat encounters between wolves and off leash dogs put not only wolves at risk, but also every dog and person who may later run into these same wolves.
    IT’S NOT JUST A GOOD IDEA - IT’S THE LAW

  2. TRAVEL SMART - BE PREPARED
    Travel in groups of 3 or more, carry bear spray, closely supervise small children, avoid travelling at dusk or dawn, carry cell phones and report all predator sightings.
    EVERYONE WINS WHEN WE RESPECT WILDLIFE

  3. REPORT ALL WOLF SIGHTINGS OR ENCOUNTERS
    This is key to ensure your safety and prevent further habituation of Jasper’s wolves
    REPORT TO 780-852-6155 OR ANONYMOUSLY TO 1-877-852-3100