Wolf Project Journal, August 2002

Chris DIn our last dispatch we had not yet learned of the locations of the 2002 “home sites”, where wolves give birth and care for their young. Wolves are habitual creatures but our early spring searches had failed to locate the sites in areas they had been the previous year. By mid August, however, we found three of these important sites and have been granted important glimpses into the lives of the growing pups.

One of these sites was discovered in the most exciting way. Researchers were following a strong wolf trail around a beautiful lake. Quickly and quietly, they were collecting samples to complete this established transect route for the summer season. As they crested a lakeside hummock, they found themselves staring, at very close range, at some rather alarmed adult wolves. The adults let out mighty howls to voice this alarm and, instead of approaching, retreated from the intruders. Below the hill, puppies also gave their mightiest attempts at howls. The researchers had stumbled across a rendezvous site, or the playground and nursery area, for this pack.

As the researchers retreated, they were reminded how sensitive these animals are to even the soft footsteps of those who wish to learn about them. It reminds us how wolves react to larger disturbances, such as machinery and explosions and logging operations creeping towards other home sites.

A few weeks later we revisited the lake to make an initial count of the puppies. This time we used a canoe and silently dipped our blades through calm water. A distant form on the lakeside moss stood up to greet us. We remained motionless and watched, mesmerized by what we saw. Perhaps our sitting posture in the canoe made us seem like a non-threatening novelty for this wolf and the rest of the pack. For nearly two hours we watched as adults and pups played with each other, with frequent hide-and-go-seek and sprints in the lakeside grasses. This time we departed in silence and with the data we needed.

On the conservation front, the Rainforest Wolf Project is involved in the heated debate over the proposed “control” of wolves and cougars on Vancouver Island, where much of the ancient forests have been converted to tree farms. In response to a reduction in deer populations, the government is proposing to kill predators, which they consider responsible for this decline in numbers.

Decades of research by biologists on the coast, however, had warned that large-scale clearcut logging would have severe impacts on the number of deer the landscape could support. Although offering seemingly abundant forage, plants in clearcuts often contain less available protein for deer, and are often inaccessible due to snow or logging debris. More notably, the dark, closed canopy of tree farms offer almost no plant food for deer.

Blaming natural predators for the decline in deer in a radically changed landscape is not only inaccurate, but ignores fundamental concepts in the food web theory. When humans take too much from the bottom of the food web (plants, forests), they cannot expect healthy populations of the herbivores (deer) that depend on this food. As a quick fix, they look to remove those at the top of the food web (wolves, cougars).

Take Action!

Raincoast is working to quash the proposed “culling” of wolves and cougars on Vancouver Island, where much of the ancient forests have been clearcut and converted to tree farms, destroying important habitat for deer (the prey base for these large carnivores). In response to a reduction in deer populations, the government is proposing to systematically kill these predators, which they erroneously claim are responsible for the decline in deer numbers.

Voice your opinion by writing Joyce Murray, Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection. Tell her that the culling of top predators in order to satisfy trophy hunting lobbyists is unjustifiable and unsustainable. Let her know that the elimination of clearcut logging in British Columbia will greatly assist in bringing the predator-prey relationship back into balance.

BC Minister of Air, Land and Water
The Honourable Joyce Murray
Parliament Buildings, Victoria, BC V8V 1X4
Email: joyce [dot] murray [dot] mla [at] leg [dot] bc [dot] ca
Phone: 250-387-1187
Fax: 250-387-1356

Chris Darimont
Raincoast Wolf Project Coordinator

You can help

Raincoast’s in-house scientists, collaborating graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and professors make us unique among conservation groups. We work with First Nations, academic institutions, government, and other NGOs to build support and inform decisions that protect aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and the wildlife that depend on them. We conduct ethically applied, process-oriented, and hypothesis-driven research that has immediate and relevant utility for conservation deliberations and the collective body of scientific knowledge.

We investigate to understand coastal species and processes. We inform by bringing science to decision-makers and communities. We inspire action to protect wildlife and wildlife habitats.

Coastal wolf with a salmon in its month.
Photo by Dene Rossouw.