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Wild coastal wolf, BC by John E Marriott

Looking out for sea wolves

Respectfully working to protect the coast.

Hey there, my name is Cameron, and I am the stewardship coordinator at the BC Marine Trails. This month there is a buzz in the media and news surrounding the coastal sea wolves. Recently, a Netflix documentary – Island of the Sea Wolves – highlighted this charismatic species. This film showcases how the wolves move through and rely on the beautiful Pacific coastal habitat and ecosystems. As outdoor recreationalists, we share these waterways and ecosystems with the sea wolves. Understanding how we can coexist with these animals as we recreate is paramount to fostering healthy human-wildlife interactions. This month, I wanted to share some of the specific work that the BC Marine Trails Stewardship Committee is tackling to promote positive human-wildlife interactions, habitat preservation and wildlife education.

Recently, we worked with a local First Nation to remove a site from our mapping system to steer paddlers away from a sensitive area. The site in question is near known sea wolf dens. As a subspecies of the North American grey wolf, the wolves on Vancouver Island are sometimes labelled ‘sea wolves’ with unique behaviours that allow them to catch and eat salmon, eat mussels and clams and dine on other sea creatures. 

Here at BCMT, we can help reduce the impact of recreation by continually updating our trip-planning resources to avoid sensitive habitats. Keeping our records updated diverts recreation from critical habitats and gives sea wolves the space to stay healthy and non-habituated.

Another way we are helping the populations of local sea wolves is via our coastal cleanups. This year we cleaned the beaches around Vargas Island. We collected over a tonne of debris with our partners. All the debris was removed/recycled at a later date. This marine debris is an attraction for many animals. Styrofoam, for example, breaks down and is easily mistaken as food for fish, birds and wolves. Through this program, we are doing our best to undo human impacts on the coastal ecosystem and ensure the livelihood of all coastal critters, wolves included.

Lastly, coexisting with these wild scavengers isn’t always done well. A large part of the BC Marine Trails Code of Conduct targets the education of proper human-wildlife interactions. This year, we plan to continue to offer training to guide outfitters, universities, high schools and rental companies about our Code of Conduct. Through these education programs, we can prevent negative interactions that have happened in the past. For example, back in July 2000, some outdoor recreationists fed wolves and their pups, causing them to become habituated and lose the wariness of humans. On July 2nd, a wolf attacked a kayaker sleeping under the stars. Eventually, this interaction led to the termination of two wolves by conservation officers. As the profile of these wolves increases alongside recreation, education is a crucial component to preventing situations like this from happening again.

Next year we plan to return to Vargas Island to clean up more debris, continue our Code of Conduct education with key outdoor participants, and update our database to divert recreation from sensitive areas. We ask you to consider making a Christmas donation. All donations are charitable. We appreciate your support in this important work. Lastly, I leave you with this quote.

Cameron Dalinghaus

Cameron is an avid kayaker and surfer living and recreating on the traditional territories of the Tla-o-qui-aht and Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ First Nations in Ucluelet, BC. Cameron is a graduate of the Thompson Rivers University Adventure Guide Diploma and holds a Bachelors of Interdisciplinary Studies. His studies focus on natural resource sciences and Indigenous studies, with an emphasis on the intersection of colonial and Indigenous governance in Haida Gwaii marine and land use planning. Cameron spends his time commuting by kayak to private surf spots and exploring the hidden gems of BC’s coast. Cameron is also a professionally trained level 3 sea kayak guide with the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC. His passion for paddling and the sustainable and ethical use of our coast makes him a perfect fit as our Coastal Stewardship Coordinator.