Wolf School

An opportunity to deepen your understanding of wolves, wolf ecology, biology, and the issues they face for their survival in British Columbia and around the world. 

Photo by John E. Marriott

Wolf school is an exploration of wolf ecology, biology, and the issues wolves face for their survival in British Columbia and around the world. Over the course of six live webinars, we explored the role of animal welfare and environmental ethics in wolf conservation, research, policy, and practice. You’re invited to hear from and pose questions to a range of experts from conservation ethicists and biologists to wildlife photographers and wolf educators.

View the recorded sessions of Wolf School below.

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“Only the mountain has lived long
enough to listen objectively
to the howl of a wolf.” 

– Aldo Leopold

Presented in partnership with the Wolf Conservation Center.

Wolf Conservation Center logo

7. Safeguarding coastal carnivores

Date: Dec 11, 2023
Time: 10AM – 11AM Pacific Time

In 2012, an Indigenous-led campaign led to a ban on trophy hunting for bears on the central and north coasts of BC. Five years later, the provincial government banned grizzly bear hunting, but trophy hunting for other species, including wolves, cougars, and wolverine is still allowed. Furthermore, the grizzly hunt ban remains vulnerable to changes in government policy.

In 2005, after a previous province-wide ban on grizzly hunting was reversed after being in place for only one hunting season, Raincoast began purchasing the commercial rights to trophy hunt bears, wolves, and other carnivores in an effort to put an end to this practice in the Great Bear Rainforest. Over the past two decades, supporters have helped us buy out the commercial hunting rights in five tenures, more than 38,000 km2 of the BC coast – an area larger than the entire country of Belgium. Purchasing these tenures is one small part in the process of supporting First Nations stewardship in the Great Bear Rainforest.

In this hour-long webinar, we will learn from Wuikinuxv scientist, Jennifer Walkus, about her key work in ending the grizzly trophy hunt in 2017, as well as the Wuikinuxv Nation’s approach to coexistence and food security within their territory. We will also explore our 25-year history of purchasing commercial trophy hunting tenures and how acquiring hunting territories not only provides a permanent solution for large carnivore protection, but also exemplifies a new ‘conservation economy’ that relies on respectful wildlife viewing. Raincoast’s Brian Falconer will also share his observations regarding the change he has seen in wildlife behaviour after these purchases and the profound role large carnivores, such as wolves, play in the functioning of these vitally important ecosystems.

This comes at a perfect time as we are nearing the end of our fundraising campaign to purchase the Southern Great Bear Rainforest tenure, one of our largest tenure acquisitions to date. 

Featured guests

Jennifer Walkus, Wuikinuxv First Nation

Jennifer is a knowledge keeper and Council Member with the Wuikinuxv Nation. She is also the Former Stewardship & Fisheries Director – and much more. Jennifer has been involved with work from crabs, to bears, to salmon, related to how Wuikinuxv data is used to create scientific questions and inquiries that allow her Nation to impact and shape government policy. As a Wuikinuxv scientist, Jenn is well respected by her neighboring nations for her key work in ending the grizzly trophy hunt in 2017. 

To learn more about the wide array of projects and initiatives happening across the central coast, including the First Nations-led ban on trophy hunting for bears in the Great Bear Rainforest, check out the following websites:
Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance
Coastal First Nations
Bears Forever project

Brian Falconer, Raincoast Safeguarding Coastal Carnivores Program Director

Brian Falconer has been a commercial mariner for 35 years on the coasts of BC and Alaska. Formerly a bush pilot and sport fishing lodge owner, he was owner-operator of Maple leaf Adventures Ltd., and for 17 years offered natural history and First Nations cultural history tours on the classic schooner Maple Leaf on the coasts of BC and Alaska. Wildlife and bears in particular were a large part of these trips. As former director of marine operations for Raincoast Conservation Foundation, he was responsible for the management of the marine research programs. As Safeguarding Coastal Carnivores Program Director he leads the project to end commercial hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest by acquiring the tenures which confer exclusive commercial hunting rights over vast areas. Brian has worked for over 2 decades on the Raincoast-led campaign which, in 2017, ended the killing of grizzly bears in BC. He has guided many people to powerful experiences with bears and was a founding member of the Canadian Bear Viewing Association.

1. The role of ethics in understanding key conservation issues

Date: March 8, 2023
Time: 2PM to 3PM Pacific Time

Embedded in our everyday lives, ethics is fundamentally the question of how we ought to live and relate to others around us. Wolves are often the subject of explicit ethical thought yet little consideration is given to their wellbeing in and of themselves, especially among policy-makers. There is a broad understanding that science is an important informant to decision making and wildlife policy. However, science only tells us what we are capable of doing, not what we ought to do.

This session explores the nuances of conservation biology and wildlife ethics, and how to think through scientific and ethical issues, particularly those related to the management and conservation of wolves. 

Featured guest

Dr. John Vucetich, Population Biologist, Conservation Ethicist, Michigan Technological University

John is a distinguished professor at Michigan Technological University, where he teaches population biology and environmental ethics. He co-leads the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Project, the longest continuous study of any predator-prey system in the world. He has authored more than 100 scholarly publications, mostly focused on the biodiversity crisis, carnivore conservation, and environmental policy and philosophy. His writings have also appeared, for example, in The New York Times and Natural History. Vucetich is also the author of Restoring the Balance (2021, Johns Hopkins University Press). He also testified before committees in the United States House and Senate about carnivore conservation and the Endangered Species Act. His ability to relate ecological science and environmental ethics has captured the attention of scholars, the general public, and governments around the world.

2. Through an ethical lens: where wildlife welfare and photography combine

Date: March 22, 2023
Time: 2PM to 3PM Pacific Time

In a time in which human influence on the planet is so profound, few if any undisturbed wolf packs remain. Wolves are threatened by climate change, industrial forestry, habitat loss, and human persecution – challenges against which they have no evolved defenses. In advocating for their conservation through videography and photography, we must consider carefully what wolves require in the face of these threats.

This session will explore the ethical concepts and practices of conservation photography and the experience of spending time with wolves and other predators in the wild.

Featured guests

Marcie Callewaert John, Wildlife Photographer

Marcie is a Vancouver Island wildlife photographer who has been taking photos since the age of 17. She has documented 9 different species of cetaceans, along with wolves, bears, sea otters, and countless species of birds, and intertidal life. The ocean is her true passion along with everything that interacts with it. She has a Bachelors of Education and works as a place based educator to introduce regional visitors to the Pacific Northwest rainforest and intertidal ecosystems. Marcie lives off grid with her husband and in the summers you will often find her gardening if she doesn’t have a camera in hand.

Melissa Groo, Wildlife Photographer, Writer, Conservationist

Melissa is a wildlife photographer, writer, and conservationist. She believes that photography can be both fine art and a powerful vehicle for storytelling, and considers herself a “wildlife biographer” as much as a wildlife photographer. By capturing and sharing stories about individual wild animals, she hopes to raise awareness and change minds about not only the extrinsic beauty of animals, but also their intrinsic worth. Her work has been published in many magazines including Smithsonian, Audubon, Outdoor Photographer, National Wildlife, National Geographic (online), Living Bird, and Natural History. Melissa is passionate about ethics and empathy in wildlife photography. She is a consultant to the National Audubon Society on ethics in photography, as well as various other organizations, publications, and photo contests around the world, working to establish ethical best practices in wildlife photography. She is an Associate Fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers, an ambassador for Project Coyote, advisor for Wyoming Untrapped, and a strong advocate for co-existence with predators.

3. Back to the wolves: exploring the ethics of captivity for conservation

Date: March 29, 2023
Time: 2PM to 3PM Pacific Time

March 2023 marks the 25th anniversary of Mexican gray wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) being returned to their historical habitat after being absent from the landscape for more than 30 years. In recognition of this historic event, the Wolf Conservation Center is among a large group of partners participating in #LoboWeek, an international movement to educate people about the Mexican wolf or “lobo” and the center’s efforts to successfully restore this critically endangered wolf to its ancestral home in the wild. 

To celebrate #LoboWeek, this session will explore the ethics of carefully managed breeding and reintroduction programs for Mexican gray wolf recovery in the US. The episode will also provide an opportunity to meet some of the wolves currently at the center.

Featured guest

Regan Downey, Director of Education, Wolf Conservation Center

Regan Downey, Director of Education, has worked at the Wolf Conservation Center since 2015 and oversees the WCC’s onsite and offsite education programs. She leads the education team in the development of engaging and interactive conservation education lessons for individuals of all ages and all learning abilities. Regan graduated magna cum laude from Providence College with a BS in Biology and a minor in Economics, and spent three years researching the mechanics of avian flight.

4. Carnivore research and animal welfare considerations

Date: April 5, 2023
Time: 6PM to 7PM Pacific Time

Human influences, inadvertent and intended, continue to threaten the survival of wildlife populations. Although rarely considered, habitat destruction, trophy hunting, and over-exploitation of food resources also cause suffering of individuals through displacement, stress, starvation, and reduced security. Additionally, inhumane and invasive methods of wildlife study can adversely impact the welfare and behaviour of individuals.

This session explores how animal welfare applies to wildlife and the ethical considerations for field research on canid species, including wolves and coyotes.

Featured guest

Dr. Shelley Alexander, Canid Conservation Science Lab, University of Calgary

Shelley is a Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Calgary and has over 30 years of experience researching human-wildlife conflict. Specializing in wolves and coyotes, Shelley founded the Canid Conservation Science Lab, which uses non-invasive methods and embraces the principles of Compassionate Conservation. In 2015, she launched the Foothills Coyote Initiative (funded by SSHRC), which explored landowners’ situational experiences and worldviews relative to their perceptions, beliefs, sentiments and actions towards coyotes. Shelley is the Scientific Director for Campus Wildlife Management (2019-present), overseeing UCalgary Living with Wildlife: An active evidence-based program that integrates intensive field monitoring, outreach education, collaborative enforcement of human activity, and aversion conditioning to realize human-coyote coexistence. In 2020, Shelley was awarded the Inaugural Applied Ethics Fellowship at the Calgary Institute for Humanities, where she explored the intersection of animal ethics, wildlife jurisprudence, and colonial ideology in relation to the treatment of ‘pest’ species. Shelley serves on many international non-profit boards and provides expert review for communities facing coexistence challenges worldwide.

5. Alpha females: five generations of leading wolves in Yellowstone National Park 

Date: April 18, 2023
Time: 2PM to 3PM Pacific Time

In 1995, gray wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park, causing a trophic cascade of ecological change throughout the entire ecosystem. Now, more than 25 years later, the wolves of Yellowstone have been stars in one of the most detailed studies of a large carnivore in the world. Thanks to the people who have dedicated their lives to watching wolves in the Park, we are able to take a deep look into Yellowstone wolves and their individual life stories.

​​Yellowstone’s 06 female was called ‘the most famous wolf in the world.’ Her strength, beauty, and intelligence were unmatched, and her ability to hunt, protect her young cubs, and choose the right mates made her pack successful. In his latest book, award-winning author and renowned wolf researcher Rick McIntyre turns his spotting scope on 06 and more remarkable female wolves, telling the dramatic true story of five generations of female leaders in Yellowstone National Park.

This session explores the history and behaviour of Yellowstone wolves and the important and influential role that female wolves play in pack life. 

Featured guest

Rick McIntyre, acclaimed author and wolf researcher

Rick is the author of the bestselling Alpha Wolves of Yellowstone book series. A retired National Park ranger, McIntyre has spent more than forty years watching wolves in America’s national parks, twenty-eight of those years in Yellowstone, where he has accumulated over 100,000 wolf sightings (more than any other person on the planet), worked on the Yellowstone Wolf Reintroduction Project, and educated the public about the park’s wolves.

6. Coastal wolves and the social license to hunt

Date: May 17, 2023
Time: 2PM to 3PM Pacific Time

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? Genetically distinct from their interior counterparts and from wolves in any other part of the world, coastal wolves can only be found in southwestern Alaska and west of the Coast Mountain Range in North America. In an area known globally as the Great Bear Rainforest, these wolves live a unique and precious existence. 

Much like their inland cousins, coastal wolves in British Columbia remain subject to human persecution by way of trophy hunting. The public, however, are increasingly revoking the social license to hunt large carnivores, as they are seldom hunted to feed one’s family. 

This session will explore the unique ecology of coastal wolves in British Columbia, as well as dominant public values and attitudes concerning the treatment of wildlife and their relevance to wolf conservation efforts across North America.

Featured guest

Dr. Chris Darimont, Raincoast Chair of Applied Conservation Science Lab, Department of Geography, University of Victoria

Chris is a Professor, Provost’s Engaged Scholar, and the Raincoast Chair of Applied Conservation Science Lab in the Department of Geography at the University of Victoria. Chris earned a PhD in Ecology and Evolution from the Biology Department at the University of Victoria and completed a postdoc at the University of California, Santa Cruz. As an interdisciplinary researcher, Chris has been influenced by a broad network of mentors and collaborators including colleagues, friends, and Knowledge Holders among the Haíɫzaqv (Heiltsuk), Wuikinuxv, Kitasoo/Xai-xais, and Nuxalk Nations. Chris has had a  long-term affiliation with the science-based eNGO, Raincoast Conservation Foundation. With Dr. Paul Paquet, Chris led Raincoast’s ‘Rainforest Wolf Project’ from 2000-2010.