This Summer, while working in the Heiltsuk Territory of the Great Bear Rainforst for Raincoast Conservation Foundation, I had the honour of sharing the beach with this beautiful wolf one morning.
Sometimes referred to as the "Sea Wolves", the wolves on the coast of British Columbia are truly special. They rely on the ocean as much as they do the land, and a large component of their diet is made up of fish (such as salmon and herring) and intertidal organisms (crabs, molluscs, etc). They have a smaller body size than many interior wolves, allowing them to swim long distances between coastal islands. Coastal wolves are one of the animals that are truly special to me and represent the uniqueness of our coast, where the land meets the sea. They are also incredibly important to the hearts and cultures of many coastal First Nations.
In British Columbia and Alberta (and sadly many other regions worldwide), wolves are often "managed" in the form of mass aerial shootings, along with other cull methods such as poisoning, strangulation, and suffocation. In these cases, wolves are often the scapegoats for human-induced problems such as the decline of caribou populations. In truth, wolves are a vital part of the habitats in which they live and help to keep the entire ecosystem in balance. In 2010, National Geographic published a illustration of the ecosystem in Yellowstone National Park before and after wolf introduction that demonstrates wonderfully the importance of these animals (see it here).
Wolves and humans have a long history of conflict and violence in other aspects as well. Across the globe, they are often viewed as "varmint", or troublesome pest animals. They are hunted extensively in many areas for sport, fun, revenge, or protection of livestock. In many cases, this is purely a case of these beautiful animals being misunderstood. From old fairytales to the current tale told by governments, wolves have been portrayed as vicious, soulless killers. In reality, wolves are strong, beautiful, family-oriented, and very intelligent.
It is vital that we protect these beautiful animals and understand the truth about wolves, looking past the myths and legends that portray them as aggressive and angry killers. There are ways for wolves and humans to live in harmony.
Please learn more about the beauty of coastal wolves, and science behind wolf culls in BC and Alberta, by visiting http://www.raincoast.org/projects/wolves/.
To learn more about coexisting with wolves and other large carnivores, please visit:
Photos: Coastal Wolf (a very special variation of Canis lupus) - Great Bear Rainforest, BC - June 2015
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© Alena E.S. Wildlife and Nature Photography