Wolves and Kayaking
ALL ABOUT VANCOUVER ISLAND WOLVES
The wolves populating the temperate rainforests of Vancouver Island where we camp are an endangered subspecies of the grey wolf or timber wolf called the Vancouver Island Wolf. While we have spotted these beautiful animals on our trips, it is more likely that you will hear them howl or see their tracks. They are very shy animals that tend to stay away from humans.
The Vancouver Island Wolf may look strikingly similar to the German shepherd you left at home but they are extremely different animals. Although wolves share a common ancestry with the domestic dog, they are apex predators that live a unique and intriguing lifestyle.
Typically, the color of a grey wolves’ fur varies from white to black with the Vancouver Island Wolves almost always having a very light or white colored coat. Their ears stick straight up and they have a bushy tail, often with a black tip at the end. Males are the bigger animals and their weight can range from 55 lbs. to 130 lbs. Wolves are highly social animals, living in packs of 2 to 15. They are extremely loyal to their pack and mate for life. Once the female wolf is impregnated, they will give birth after only a two-month gestation period to a litter of about 7 pups. The entire pack will take part in the upbringing of the pups.
Wolf sightings are rare as these quick animals do their best to avoid their only predator, humans, in the wild. You are much more likely to hear a wolf than to see one. Howling is a method wolves' use with frequency to communicate. Wolves likely howl for a variety of reasons. It keeps members of the pack in touch and is often used to call members of the pack to a certain location. It is also thought that howling can be used to declare territory and for communal less practical reasons. For example, many researchers think a group of wolves howling is the equivalent of a group of humans singing. The peak time to hear the howl of a wolf is twilight. Wolves hunt through the night and they usually howl before they go out for their hunt and as they return.
Wolves are apex predators and often kill animals that are much bigger than them. The way they are able to do this is by hunting in a pack. The dominant males often back large mammals such elk or moose into the waiting remainder of the pack, where they pounce as a group. Wolves can also use their speed to catch up to large mammals and quickly slash their tendons. Crippling the larger mammal and making it easier to kill. When hunting a herd, wolves will conserve their energy by isolating the herd’s weaker or older members and attacking.
Although wolves are excellent predators, their population has continuously dwindled over the past century. Wolves once populated areas throughout North America. They are now limited to living in only certain less-developed areas of the Alaska, Canada and the lower 48 states. It is thought that the Grey wolf population today is only half what it once was. Destruction of the wolves’ habitat by human development is likely the number one reason for this population decline. Humans continue to threaten the wolves in this capacity, with deforestation on Vancouver Island directly threatening the endangered Vancouver Island Wolf population that thrives in the area’s temperate rainforests.
Are wolves dangerous?
While wolves are apex predators, wolf attacks on humans are extremely unlikely. Our research cannot track any reports of wolf attacks in British Columbia and there have been an extremely limited number of attacks over the past century throughout North America. Statistically, you are more likely to get struck by lightning than you are to be attacked by a pack of wolves.