Wolf habituation a human issue

Presence felt on coast

by Chris Bolster and Dean Unger, Powell River Peak

January 28, 2014

Management of few animals in BC is more contentious than wolves. The animals, seen by some as symbolic of the province’s wilderness heritage and by others as a threat to game species, agriculture and pet and human safety, are making a comeback in the province.There have been reports from people living in forest interface areas south of Powell River, whose pets have been targeted and/or attacked and killed by wolves. Phoebe Kingscote, owner of Tanglewood Farms, said she had a large working dog killed by wolves.

Since the incident, Kingscote has been talking with others who’ve had run-ins with wolves. “There were some girls on a trail ride that related a story of two dogs that were attacked but got away because some people woke up and scared the wolves off,” she said. “This was up around the Dogwood Kennel area.

There was another incident out in the Palm Beach area where a resident had a close call with their dog. The dog came crawling down the driveway on its belly when [the owner] called it in and [the owner] said he saw two wolves standing at the top of the driveway. Later that night the wolves came right onto his porch.

There have been a number of other people who heard about my dog Angel who told me other stories.”Both the BC ministry of environment and the ministry of forests, lands and natural resource operations (MFLNRO) share responsibility for wolf management in the province. Powell River is part of the ministry of environment’s region two, which includes all of the Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky Corridor, Lower Fraser Canyon and parts of the Cascade Mountains.

The MFLNRO released its draft management plan for the grey wolf in November 2012 which has raised concerns of conservation groups across the province who say the plan is unbalanced, leaning too heavily on limiting wolf populations and not enough on protecting habitat.

According to the management plan, in this region there have been no reported kills of wolves by resident hunters in the hunter harvest survey since 2005, but wolves are being harvested in other areas. The number of wolves in the region is reported to be growing due to increased availability of prey (possibly due to the reintroduction of Roosevelt elk), direct observation and anecdotal reports.

MFLNRO estimates the current provincial wolf population to be at approximately 8,500 animals, up from 8,100 in 1991. These numbers, however, are difficult to verify and are based more on mathematical modelling than direct observation.

An authority on wolves said he is not surprised that the provincial government has not benchmarked wolf populations.

“I think people do want to know and to investigate, but to do it at the scale that’s required in BC is very difficult, costly and things change quickly,” said Dr. Paul Paquet, senior scientist with Raincoast Conservation Foundation and adjunct professor at the University of Victoria. “It’s something that, if you were to undertake it, you’d have to do it continuously.”

Since 2000, Paquet and Raincoast colleague Dr. Chris Darimont have been working together on a study on the effects clear-cut forestry has had on wolf and deer numbers on the central and north BC coast…

To read the full article please visit the Powell River Peak website.


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.