Journal of the Wolf Project – May 2003

Chris D

This spring has sprung the 4th full season for the Rainforest Wolf Project and an opportunity for reflection. I think back on our early days – only Bella Bella’s Chester Starr (“The Lone Wolf”) and I were out in a tiny Raincoast boat exploring for wolves, guided by local knowledge, topographic maps, and a bit of luck. Since these days, we have learned a great deal about coastal wolves, their prey, and the ecosystem in which they live. Importantly, we have shared this knowledge with Conservation Planners, the scientific community, local coastal people, and the public through Raincoast public outreach, scientific journal articles, participation in planning processes, and popular media (radio, television, Internet and films).

No single person is responsible for the gains we have made. The team has grown over the years. We continue to work with GIS specialists, Field Biologists, and Planners from the local Heiltsuk First Nation, student interns and volunteers, two Canadian universities, an American university, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Smithsonian Institution and many biologist colleagues. We thank all for their contributions over the years.

Rainforest wolves have revealed many of their secrets to us. We now know about where wolves occur in this complex coastal landscape, what resources and habitat are important for them, where many wolf families give birth, an idea of how many exist, and of the patterns of their seasonal movements. Importantly, we also now know who these wolves are – a unique genetic group on the coast, a function of isolation in a unique ecosystem and relative freedom from persecution that wiped out many other wolves that once roamed across North America.

This knowledge has saved a den site from clearcutting destruction, reduced and avoided coastal sport hunting and “lethal management control” of wolves by government, and influenced prescriptions for the presentation of important river valleys. The future, however, poses important challenges: Can we convince Planners of the need for large protected areas? Can we totally eliminate sport hunting of wolves on the coast and beyond?

Tomorrow we leave on a large sailboat voyage up an Inlet north of Bella Bella. We will collect samples from one particularly important watershed for wolves. There lives a wolf family from which we have learned alot. A few years ago, their home was slated to be logged, but temporarily saved at the last moment. Recently I heard that the logging corporation wants back in. Chester Starr, the Lone Wolf, will be aboard. Our boat and team has grown over the years and so has our mission.

Chris Darimont
Principal Investigator, Rainforest Wolf Project, University of Victoria

After 8 months study in Victoria , BC, I‘m finally experiencing the Canada I have dreamt of. Old growth forests carpet an array of scattered Islands. Life bursts from every gleaming layer of the biosphere, a perfect symbiosis of life and death that has remained for thousands of years untouched by human hand – pristine. I sit in a canoe as the sun sets far behind granite walls plunging shear into the depths of the ocean, the water turns to black glass, and one by one stars appear on the surface, and you find you are floating on the sky. As the visual senses fade, your hearing sharpens, and waits like a dry mouth waiting to be quenched, then in the darkness the wolves cry out into the night, echoes bounce from face to face, and from head to heart.

Once, wolves could be heard in the UK, like the wolf many other species of plants and animals are disappearing with habitat loss, this reduction in biodiversity is reducing our knowledge of natural systems, and shrinking the stimuli for our thirsty senses that water the soul. The Rainforest Wolf Project will leave an everlasting impression on my soul, and has opened my eyes to pristine habitat that is unfortunately becoming all too rare.

Clare Aries
Environmental Science exchange student from University of Plymouth, UK.

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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.