An attack on a leashed dog near Green Point Campground sealed a wolf’s fate on Sunday.
The roughly 37-kilogram male wolf was shot and killed by Pacific Rim National Park Reserve staff later that night.
“Parks Canada has worked hard to try to prevent this situation through attempts to haze the animal, increased monitoring, area closures, temporary dogs ban, and significant communications with the public,” read a statement released by Parks Canada on Monday morning.
“Despite these efforts, the wolf continued to show a lack of fear around humans while increasingly treating dogs as prey. This is thought to have been caused in part by preventable visitor behaviour: letting dogs off leash, leaving food and garbage out on beaches, trails and parking lots, as well as enticing and approaching wolves too closely, often for a photograph.”
It marked the first time a wolf has been euthanized within the Park Reserve’s boundaries since 2008, according to the Park Reserve’s Resource Conservation Manager Renee Wissink.
“This is our absolutely last resort. Having to euthanize an animal is not something we want to do,” Wissink told the Westerly News. “My staff are dedicated wildlife professionals and we try very, very hard to avoid this very situation.”
He noted the Park Reserve has had a Wolf Advisory in place since November and that Sunday’s attack was the second on a leashed dog so far this year.
“We’ve certainly had attacks by wolves on dogs, but this was the first year that we’ve had this new incident of wolves attacking dogs on-leash,. It’s one thing for wolves to be attacking dogs off leash, but when they’re attacking dogs on leash that’s a whole new concerning trend that we had not seen before,” he said. “We can’t and won’t take the risk that it would escalate beyond that to an actual attack on a person…Visitor safety is our number one priority and, looking at the number of incidents and the escalating trend of the incidents, the decision was made after yesterday’s incident to euthanize this one animal.”
Wissink’s team tracked the animal to Florencia Bay where it was killed late Sunday night.
“Not a starving animal or sick animal as far as we can tell so far, but we will know a lot more after it’s been necropsied by the provincial wildlife veterinarian later this week,” he said.
Florencia Bay was closed to the public while the search was ongoing, but reopened Monday.
Ucluelet mayor Dianne St. Jacques told the Westerly News she hopes the sad news serves as a reminder to locals and visitors to respect the wildlife surrounding them and not let animals become habituated.
“When we see them, we need to scare them away. We don’t need to just stop and stare at them. We need to scare them away so that they know this is not a place for them to become habituated because it’s hurts them as well as our community,” she said.
Wissink said West Coast locals have a shared responsibility to keep their surrounding wildlife wild and un-habituated.
“As we all know, the wolves that are in the Park today are in Ucluelet tomorrow and Tofino the day after. These wolves are our joint-responsibility as citizens,” he said.
He pointed to the Park Reserve’s BARE Campsite Program as an example of how changing human behaviours can help keep animals safe.
“Prior to implementing the BARE Campsite Program here in the Park 17 years ago, we were destroying several bears in that campground every year and, since that program has been implemented almost two decades ago, we’ve only had to destroy two,” he said.
“What that proves is that, when everybody does their bit, we can coexist with these carnivores across the landscape and that’s what we need to do with the wolves.”
He said locals must ensure they’re providing good examples for visitors to follow by leashing their pets, securing their garbage, and never leaving food unattended. He added wolves should never be approached for the sake of a photograph and anyone approached by a wolf should do everything they can to scare it away.
“If we all do that then this situation shouldn’t repeat itself in the future,” he said adding locals must be wary of the example they’re setting.
“They really need to understand the important role that they play as ambassadors to the visitors we get.”
He said the Park Reserve topped one million visitors for the first time last year and is expecting even more this year because of the waived fees associated with Canada’s 150th birthday.
“It’s not necessarily the number of visitors, its how those visitors behave when they’re here,” he said.
“As we’ve seen with our bears, if everybody does their bit, we can coexist on the landscape and the message we want to get out to the many visitors that will come this year is, ‘Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.’”
Troubling wolf activity caused the Park Reserve to shut down all public access to Wick Beach for several days in March and a dog ban was implemented for roughly one-week. In that instance, Park staff were able to haze the wolf out of the area.