An increase in troubling interactions has prompted the Pacific Rim National Park to issue a wolf advisory around Long Beach.
“Since the beginning of May, we’ve had 14 separate interactions that we know about,” The Park’s resource management officer Todd Windle told the Westerly News.
He said these interactions range from wolves watching people to approaching them, following them and stalking their pets.
“We believe there’s likely one or two animals within the pack that are causing most of the interactions,” he said.
“That’s not to say the entire pack isn’t likely habituated, because they probably are, however it seems to be the repeated behaviours and physical descriptions of the animals match one or two of the yearling animals in the pack, meaning they were born last year.”
He said a wolf recently approached a dog that had been let outside a tent by a camper at the Green Point Campground.
“The dog and the wolf stood face to face at close range and the woman grabbed her dog, picked it up and carried it back over to her vehicle in the parking lot,” Windle said.
“The wolf actually followed them back to the vehicle but there was no physical contact made between the wolf and the dog.”
The West Coast sees about six wolf attacks on dogs each year and there has been one reported attack since May, according to Windle who said the attack occurred in Ty-Histanis.
He said there have been no reports of wolves acting aggressively towards humans, but pets need to be kept under close watch.
“Any wild animal always has the potential to be dangerous,” he said. “Your pets, particularly off-leash are at higher risk right now. We’re not thinking any people are at risk…We’ve never had an incident of an attack on people by wolves in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.”
The Park urges visitors to keep pets leashed at all times.
“Wolves see dogs just as another prey item out there so, if we keep pets on a leash, that can really prevent negative encounters and potentially save your pet’s life,” Windle said adding large dogs are no safer than small ones.
“There’s a misconception out there; people think that because their dog is large, it’s not at risk. I like to remind people that wolves can take down animals such as elk and bison.”
He said wolves are common within the Park’s boundaries but their recent behaviours are not natural.
“They live here. It’s their territory. We share the land with them,” he said.
“We wouldn’t expect wolves to walk into a busy high human use area, such as the campground. We wouldn’t expect wolves to choose to interact with people on a trail within a few metres, follow them or that kind of thing…It wouldn’t be natural for them to be hard to be scared away.”
He said there is no current plan to euthanize any wolf within the Park.
“We’re not at a point now where we’re looking at any kind of further action as far as the destruction of animals,” he said.
Anyone who spots a wolf in the Park should immediately report their sighting, including when and where the sighting occurred and a description of the animal, to 250-726-3604.
“Sometimes people are reluctant to do that, or they just don’t for whatever reason. They’re reluctant because they think that we’re going to go out and euthanize an animal because it was seen, or because they just don’t realize that it’s actually really useful information for us,” Windle said.
“We really want to get that information…Every little bit of information is really helpful.”
He urges locals and visitors to keep wolves away and not try to score a wildlife encounter.
“Certainly don’t approach them yourselves but also, if you see a wolf starting to come within 100 metres of you, see if there’s something you can do to deter it from wanting to come close to you or feel comfortable coming close to you,” he said.
“You could wave your arms, you could yell, you could carry an air horn and use it…that repeated exposure of not wanting to come close to people is going to be much more beneficial for them than allowing them to get close and trying to get a nice photograph.”
He added it’s vital to maintain wolves’ natural wariness of humans.
“We’re trying to reinforce healthy boundaries,” he said.
“For animals like wolves and cougars, if they receive a message from us that we’re large and we’re potentially threatening or we’re in charge of that situation, they’re more likely to leave than if we are acting timid or being quiet and allowing them to come closer and allowing them to control that situation.”
He added all food and garbage must be properly stored and disposed of.
“It’s somewhat more obvious to not directly hand feed an animal, but sometimes we forget about some garbage or some wrappers or things that we might leave behind and wolves are incredibly intelligent and adaptable animals,” he said.
“If they start to associate people with food, that’s what we call food conditioning and they may actually start approaching and looking for those handouts.”
He said the Park would deliver messaging around keeping garbage secured and pets leashed throughout the summer.
“We need to do our part to constantly help remind people what the best practices are, explain to them why they’re important and connect the dots of what the consequences are,” he said.
“We also have some really cool interpretive programs for people to really learn more, as opposed to just know that wolves and cougars are present here.”
He touted the Park’s interpretive programs, like the long-running Wolves and Cougars and Bears talk at the Green Point Theatre and the Tracking the Wild course, as solid sources of valuable information.
“That actually involves taking people out on the beach and giving them a very basic introduction to learning about wildlife signs,” he said of Tracking the Wild.
“That can be really interesting and fascinating once you start to know what you’re looking for…We offer people the opportunity to make a plaster cast of any tracks they might find so they can take that home as a souvenir.”