Recently, there have been wolf sightings in town.
It is the kind of thing you might expect while out in the wilderness, but walking home from work up Mackenzie Way is not somewhere you’d expect to see a wolf.
But that’s exactly what happened to a young woman in Tumbler Ridge not too long ago.
She was walking home at dusk when Nate Leland happened to notice that there was a wolf nearby, following her, so he pulled his truck over and gave her a ride home.
Wolf sightings in town aren’t as uncommon as some people think. According to many residents, it happens every year.
Brad Lacey (Ministry of Environment Conservation Officer) says that predators are drawn into town for a variety of reasons. One common reason is fairly straight forward: food. If wolves are hungry it’s pretty fair to assume that so are deer and other prey.
Deer will roam into town to gorge themselves, especially since, despite the snow, tasty foliage is usually much more accessible from your tended garden than it is in the wild. “Prey seeks out urban centres for easy meals,” Lacey says, “people feed them, and paved walkways make for easier access. People don’t really believe that, but it’s true.”
Some people like to feed deer and other harmless wildlife so that they can observe them in their own backyards and this in and of itself is not dangerous; but having prey roaming free around town will invite predators to do the same. “Deer in urban centres lose their fear,” Says Lacey, “Wolves are quick to learn and adapt to activities that offer food.”
Wolf attacks on humans are quite rare however, and Lacey says that most of those uncommon incidents involve people feeding them, or trying to.
There was an incident in Steeprock not too long ago where somebody released some domesticated rabbits into the wild.
They bred, well, like rabbits, and that drew cougars and coyotes to the area. “Ultimately, we are responsible,” he says, “It’s an offense to feed dangerous wildlife, because of public safety.” He encourages anybody who knows of someone doing this to report it to RAPP (Report All Poachers and Polluters) online or by calling 1-877-952-7277.
Lacey also says that a wolf “might come up out of curiosity, it might not realize that you’re human. But there’s only one thing that looks like us. Make sure it knows you’re human.” Things like air horns and whistles can help identify you to a wolf, after which the wolf will most likely lose interest.
Lacey says that it is important to remain calm. Don’t turn or run, just back away slowly. If you can, try to make yourself look bigger, flail your arms. He also strongly recommends that if you’re walking with dogs, you keep them on a lead. According to Lacey, right now is the end of mating season and the wolves and dogs are both curious about one another. He stresses “Don’t let your dog interact with a wolf. They’re very curious, but it’s dangerous.” He recommends keeping your pets inside from twilight until it gets light outside, or to keep outdoor pets in kennels.
The bottom line is that while wolves are powerful predators, they are not generally interested in humans unless they have become conditioned and comfortable around them as a result of direct or indirect feeding. While they don’t tend to come in to town very often, we do see them from time to time, so taking precautions for the safety of your pets and children is not a bad idea. For more information, Lacey suggests taking a look at westernwildlife.org for recommendations on how to safely coexist with the carnivores in our neighborhood.