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Death of a Modern Wolf

posted Nov 10, 2017, 5:37 PM by chloe owens

10/17/17, by J.B. MacKinnon, Haakai

Death of a Modern Wolf

…Vancouver Island’s wolves are a variety of gray wolf, Canis lupus, known as coastal wolves or sea wolves. Smaller than most gray wolves (though a large male may still weigh 40 kilograms, about the size of an Alaskan malamute), they have shorter, coarser coats that often have reddish or golden tones as well as shades of white, black, and gray. In other places, gray wolves hunt mainly ungulates such as moose, elk, and deer, but coastal wolves also eat from the sea: waterfowl, otters, shellfish, even seals and sea lions. They fish skillfully for salmon. Until recently, the planet’s surviving wolves were so closely associated with remote and wild places that they were preeminent symbols of wilderness. Yet by the time wolves made their Vancouver Island comeback in the 1970s, it was unavoidable that they would be sharing their habitat with humans. The island’s population was rising toward half a million (it’s close to 800,000 today), with most residents crowded along the shorelines. The coastal wolves moved onto an island of coastal people…Written records from the early 1900s describe the rite’s importance to the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ town of Hitacu, just across a narrow inlet from the broader community of Ucluelet. In those days, Hitacu’s relationship with wolves was so close that Tlo:kwa:na initiates, howling as a part of the ceremony, might be joined by a chorus of living wolves in the nighttime forest, and incorrect performance of the rite—even singing the wrong words to a song—was said to cause wolf attacks. It’s a tradition, Mastrangelo said, that asks us to look first at human behavior when wolves’ behavior changes. From the perspective of Tlo:kwa:na, human-wolf conflict is a message to think harder about human-wolf coexistence…In the wake of the wolf’s killing, a committee made up of representatives from Parks Canada, the First Nations, and the towns of Tofino and Ucluelet has been discussing the need for a united front on coexistence with wolves, which move freely between jurisdictions. Parks Canada is preparing to carry out better research on the wolf population, and, with a stronger visitor education campaign, managed to reduce the number of dogs that were off leash this past summer from half to one-third. The Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ will study whether to close the Lost Shoe Creek drainage to visitors; the Tla-o-qui-aht are considering zip lines that dogs could be leashed to as an alternative to free-running dogs in their communities. One potential solution—banning dogs from the park—is controversial, but far from unprecedented. Pets are almost entirely forbidden from the wild landscape across much of the United States national park system, including in Yellowstone National Park…