The wolf man of British Columbia

Although Dr. Chris Darimont initially made his mark with seven years of cutting edge research on BC’s coastal ‘rainforest wolves,’ he actually specializes in all large carnivores, not just Canis lupus.

A University of Victoria graduate trained as an evolutionary ecologist, Chris has developed strong scholarly and practical interests in animal welfare. As a Conservation Biologist for the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California (Santa Cruz), his research focuses on sensitive carnivores, like wolves and bears, which endure some of the most severe suffering among wild animals due to direct (e.g., trophy hunting) and indirect (e.g., food competition with fishers) human effects.

As a vocal advocate for animals, Chris subscribes to an ‘informed advocacy’ approach. Several television documentaries have focused on his work including Discovery Canada’s Rainforest Wolves, Canadian Geographic’s Secrets of the Coast Wolf, and National Geographic’s Last Stand of the Great Bear. His work is also commonly featured in print (Discover Magazine, Nature, New York Times, Oprah magazine) and on radio (CBC, National Public Radio).

Chris also believes that conservation biologists must lead by example.

Accordingly, his research employs exclusively non-invasive methods. His current focus for Raincoast is assessing how much salmon is required to sustain key terrestrial species, such as grizzly bears.

This question probably means more to Chris now than ever, as he explains: “I’ve been blessed with my own ‘cub’ this spring (our first). My partner, Alison and I were fortunate; we had access to abundant and high qualityfoods throughout our pregnancy. Our daughter Maëlle emerged from the womb happy and healthy. The same may not be true for the bears.”

“My family will travel with me and the Raincoast team to BC’s Great Bear Rainforest this field season,” he says. “We will embark on the second year of what we believe to be the most important applied conservation work on the coast; counting bears and cubs, and assessing their health in an era of dwindling salmon runs.”

Chris Darimont’s work with Raincoast is more urgent than ever. At the policy level, we are pushing for meaningful changes to salmon harvest regulations that now allocate only a small amount of salmon to bears and other wild creatures.

Did You Know?

Grizzly reproduction includes delayed implantation in which the embryo waits for a signal of good things to come before developing.

Female coastal grizzlies – even if pregnant – can only have cubs if they consumed enough salmon before heading for winter hibernation.

A version of this article first appeared in the Seaside Times June 2010 Issue.

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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.