Rare wolverine found dead along busy Kootenay National Park highway
Huge volumes of traffic by vacationing Calgarians deadly for numerous wildlife species on road past Banff
The number of wolverines, like the one found dead this week along a highway in B.C.'s Kootenay National Park, is declining in Canada. The solitary animals cover vast amounts of territory and are difficult animals to study, but DNA studies have so far allowed researchers to genetically identify 19 individual wolverines — 12 males and seven females — across a 6,000-square-kilometre area in the Rocky Mountain national parks of Banff, Yoho and Kootenay.
Photograph by: Courtesy , Parks Canada
The animal was found dead in a ditch along Highway 93 South, about 1.5 kilometres south of Marble Canyon, on Monday morning.
It is the second known wolverine killed on that B.C. highway since 1979. The other was in 1990.
Trevor Kinley, a wildlife biologist for Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay, said Parks Canada is greatly saddened by the loss of this important animal.
"Wolverines are a true symbol of Canadian wilderness as represented by our national parks," he said.
"It's extremely rare that you get to see a wolverine, and certainly we prefer not to see them this way. Thankfully, this is only the second collision involving a wolverine in Kootenay National Park over the past 33 years."
Wolverine numbers are declining in Canada, and because they are solitary animals and cover such vast amounts of territory, they are difficult animals to study.But the wonders of modern DNA are giving scientists some preliminary answers on how many wolverines may live in the mountain national parks of Banff, Yoho and Kootenay.
Researchers have so far been able to genetically identify 19 individual wolverines — 12 males and seven females — across a 6,000-square-kilometre area in the first of a five-year study.
While more closely resembling the appearance of a small bear, wolverines are actually the largest land-dwelling members of the weasel family.
These stocky and muscular carnivores are highly sensitive to a warming planet and human disturbance, such as busy highways and roads.Highway 93 South is proving to be a deadly road for wildlife as huge volumes of traffic buzz back and forth between Alberta and B.C., where many Albertans have vacation properties.
From 2000 to 2009, park staff recorded more than 400 large animal deaths along the highway through Kootenay, southwest of Banff National Park. Many more wildlife-vehicle collisions go unreported. The most commonly killed animals are white-tailed deer, an important prey species for wolves and cougar. Rare or sensitive species such as wolves and grizzly bears are also being hit.
Parks Canada has previously secured funding to allow them to build fencing and wildlife underpasses within a priority section of the highway.
A minimum of three kilometres of fencing and one wildlife underpass is to be established around the Dolly Varden area, about 35 kilometres from the south gate of Kootenay.
According to Parks Canada's website, construction is anticipated for 2012, although it's unknown what federal budget cuts could mean to the timing of this project.
Kinley said the death of the wolverine is an important reminder to drivers to stick to the speed limit through Kootenay National Park.