Coastal wolves

A species unique to the Pacific Coast.

Photo by Klaus Pommerenke.

Where else on the planet do wolves take to the sea, swimming among forested islands to feed themselves? Where else can wolves make more than 75% of their living from marine resources like salmon, beached whales and seals?  Where else can we learn how these magnificent animals used to live, before the planet suffered extensive loss of wild wolves in most other places? In the traditional territories of several First Nations – an area known globally as the Great Bear Rainforest – wolves live a unique and precious existence, and one we work hard to safeguard.
A wolf trots across the beach in the early morning light.
Photo by Ian Harland.

A coastal wolf stares out from the beach surrounding by small bugs and water droplets.
Photo by Steve Woods.

A species unique to the Pacific Coast

Coastal wolves can only be found in southwestern Alaska and west of the Coast Mountain Range, which separates coastal from interior areas of British Columbia. In BC, this includes the Great Bear Rainforest, many islands and archipelagos in the Salish Sea (including Vancouver Island), and along BC’s coast. 

Coastal wolves’ biology and ecology includes a unique diet heavily influenced by marine resources, distinct behaviours such as swimming in the open ocean between landmasses, and morphological differences to their interior conspecifics, such as darker pelage, smaller size, and distinct cranial and dental morphology. Coastal wolves are fast, powerful swimmers who often paddle miles between islands in search of food. Along the vast coastlines of the rainforest, they have been observed efficiently foraging in salmon streams, scavenging for shellfish and herring eggs, and feasting on seals and washed up whale carcasses.

Our partnerships

Our partnerships with local communities, such as the Heiltsuk Nation of Bella Bella, have granted us unique insight into the lives of wolves. In 2014, a long term science study by Raincoast and our Heiltsuk partners revealed what First Nations have always known – coastal wolves are distinct from their mainland cousins. This study re-affirmed there are genetic, ecological and behavioural differences between coastal and mainland wolves that live in close proximity to each other.