Coastal Wolves of Vancouver Island


Vancouver Island, north of Seattle, is homes to a very special population of gray wolves known as Coastal Wolves. They differ from the Timber and Arctic wolves in that they are about 20% smaller on average, are usually a little redder in color, live near water in the pacific northwest and, instead of hunting ungulates in packs, they hunt sea life. During the fall, a large portion of their diet consists of salmon which swims upstream from the ocean to spawn. Other parts of the year, when salmon are not as plentiful, the wolves can be seen swimming out to feast on herring eggs, digging up clams, and hunting crab. They have even been known to eat whales which have washed up on shore.

These wolves have adapted to live in a place where one of the last temperate rainforests meets the ocean. They often must transverse from small island to small island. They have been known to swim seven and a half miles between land masses.

Utilizing this niche over time has led to behavioral differences, as well as morphological and genetic changes.  These wolves have been found to be genetically distinct from their Canadian interior counterparts.

Due to human intervention, these wolves were gone from Vancouver Island in the 1960s, but then repopulated the area from populations living in the Great Bear Rainforest. If we want to keep this population thriving for decades to come, we must make a conscious effort to do so.

Last month the B.C. government put forth a proposal to increase the trapping season on Vancouver Island by two months. The trapping season is currently eight months long. They are trying to lengthen it to ten. The government proposal is less than one-page, and does not include a single piece of scientific evidence. The explanation for their decision is only two paragraphs long. In it they explain they came to there conclusion based on the anecdotal evidence of “public sightings and observations”. Trappers and hunters reported increased wolf sightings correlating with a decrease in deer sightings. Nothing is mentioned regarding deer carcass found with signs of wolves or wolf killings sighted. As previously mentioned, the wolves on Vancouver Island are significant because of their unique trait of procuring 90% of their diet from the sea.

It is estimated that there are around 250 wolves on Vancouver Island that this edict could effect. However, the government has not done any comprehensive survey work since 1994. The reasoning given for this oversight is that monitoring wolves is “costly and difficult”, especially considering its “low conservation concern status”. Unlike in the United States, the gray wolf is listed as least concern throughout the entire country of Canada which can make it hard to persuade the government to take an interest in protecting these animals.

To learn more and make your voice heard, sign and share the Save BC Wolves Petition.



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