A frightening tussle between a wolf and a dog in Tofino has WildSafeBC’s Pacific Rim coordinator Bob Hansen urging residents to tighten up their wildlife awareness.
Hansen told the Westerly News that the dog was off leash when the fight occurred, but its owner was fortunately able to scare the wolf off before either animal suffered significant injuries.
“It took the owner intervening to break up the scrap and chase the wolf off,” he said. “That certainly emphasizes the need for everyone to have their heads up if they have pets.”
Hansen said the wolf was spotted around several residences over a two-day period and he commended residents for doing the right thing sending clear, consistent, messaging to the animal that it was not welcome in the human-use area.
“Everywhere it popped up it got the message that this isn’t a comfortable place to be and it’s not a safe place to be,” he said. “That wariness keeps everyone safer: us, the pets, the livestock and the wildlife. A wary animal is very likely to stay a live animal.”
Hansen launched into a new WildSafeBC season on April 14 and said things started off slow for the first week or so.
“I was just getting things underway and there wasn’t very much activity to speak of, but that’s all changed in the past week,” he said. “The bears are back and there has also been considerable wolf activity both in Ucluelet and Tofino in the last number of days.”
Hansen has been captaining the local WildSafeBC chapter since 2018 and said he was grateful to see the program return again this year thanks to support from local governments, businesses, organizations and residents. Communities wanting a WildSafeBC program apply each January and must have raised at least $4,000 of community funding in order to be eligible.
“I really appreciate the support from businesses and the local governments given all the impacts of COVID-19. There’s a lot of extra costs and reduction in revenues and that generous support that has come through is really appreciated,” Hansen said.
“It’s amazing all of the wildlife that we have the privilege of living with on this landscape and for so many it’s really part of the draw that brought us here in the first place and keeps us here. It’s a real precious part of the coastal landscape that we’re stewards of and it’s all about doing the best job we can to coexist and to ensure we continue to have this wealth of natural environment and wildlife. There’s so many things we can do and most of those things are fairly straightforward.”
He noted the West Coast saw about 14 bears killed last year after being deemed habituated and food conditioned to the point that human safety was compromised.
“We basically had bears gorging on fruit everywhere that there were fruit trees in the region and then as the fruit crop became depleted, bears moved on to other available things, like composts or garbage or freezers outside and then we started into a real cycle of conflicts that carried on well into the fall and even December and the last food conditioned bear was reported in January in Ucluelet,” he said.
“There was quite a toll on those bears as they progressed from being unafraid of people and conditioned to human food. They started to do damage to property like sheds and composts and there were lost chickens…When you get into those scenarios, it typically ends very badly for the animals involved and quite a number of bears were put down last year because of it.”
He said a bear has already been spotted getting into residential composts and garbage this month and he’s hoping to see better attractant management this year.
“I’m putting out a call to the community to really try for a fresh start this season. Tighten things up around your home or business, assess your backyard and make sure that anything that might be of interest to a bear is not accessible to a bear,” he said.
He encourages West Coasters to complete the ‘A WildSafe Yard’ checklist at wildsafebc.com.
“It gives a detailed check list and you can go out and have a run through and it’s a great thing to do with your kids so that they understand what’s involved in living side by side with all these animals in our communities,” he said.
He added the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District has a subsidy program in place that covers up to 50 per cent of the costs for residents to purchase wildlife deterrents like electric fencing for chicken coops and bear proof garbage bins.
Information about the program can be found on the WildSafeBC Pacific Rim Facebook page and Hansen encourages residents to send any questions his way at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I’d be very keen to help people brainstorm solutions at their own homes and in their backyards,” he said.