Lately, there has been a lot in the news from the west coast about wolves. Wolves are a part of Long Beach and environs. It is not uncommon to hear of sightings — or even to have one yourself — but in the last month there have been more and more sightings within the communities. Wolves walking down the main street of Ucluelet and wolves taking dogs (three to date) in Tofino. This reality is creating a conundrum — it’s great to see wolves and the temptation is to watch or photograph them — but the communities need to make it clear where their territory starts and the wolves’ ends. This means scaring the wolves away (preferably by non-lethal means, such as air horns, even pots and pans) and removing temptation and easy food (i.e., pets). (Some excellent information here; please give it a read.)
Certainly if you are planning a visit to the west coast, thoughts of marauding packs of wolves should be put out of your mind immediately. Wolves, cougars and bears are part of the landscape here and they have been for decades. I purposely say “decades” and not “forever,” because there was a period of time when wolves and cougars were not present on the landscape at Long Beach and in the surrounding communities. This surprises a lot of people. When I was researching Long Beach Wild, interviewing “old timers” and reading newspaper accounts and journals, I was surprised as how infrequently wolves or cougars were mentioned. This was because both had a bounty on their heads. In 1896, the colonial government of British Columbia enacted a “wolf and panther destruction bill.” From that point on, most of these predators were shot on site. Abetted by a bounty that was active until 1952, wolves eventually became extirpated (locally extinct) on Vancouver Island. From about 1950 to 1970, it was thought there were no wolves on Vancouver Island.
A case in point. When a wolf was killed on the highway near Long Beach just after the park’s formation, people were unclear as to whether it was a dog or a wolf. Wolves just hadn’t been seen for decades. It turns out it was a wolf. (This unfortunate highway casualty was then taxidermied, as you can see in this photo.)
Our relationship with predators can be an uneasy one, but personally, I am heartened by the fact that at least predators are back on the landscape. One of most memorable wildlife sightings — perhaps the most memorable of a very fortunate life full of them — is when my husband and I came across two wolves who had just killed a black bear near Florencia Bay. Distressing? Yes, perhaps hard to witness, but knowing that these animals are in the area changes our relationship with it. Long Beach is not just a pretty viewscape or a holiday playground. It is, for now at least, home to wild animals who put the wild in wilderness.