Conservation officers from Terrace believe the number of wolf sightings in town may slow down after a wolf was put down in Prince Rupert on Dec. 18.
“We received many complaints [and we believe] a majority of those complaints came from one wolf. Hopefully that one is gone now,” Dale Kluivers, a conservation officer from the Terrace office, said.
Complaints from Rupertites included a wolf following both humans and pets, with those complaining describing a similar fur pattern on the animal bothering them.
“This particular wolf was acting bolder and bolder and losing its natural fear of humans. It was associating people with food… So that’s why it was following people,” Kluivers said.
Kluivers came to Prince Rupert on Tuesday and located a wolf in the Park Avenue area fitting the description and shot it due to safety concerns.
“If one bear, cougar or wolf gets habituated and acts unnaturally it will show up all over… Wolves move around pretty quick,” he said.
But Kluivers does acknowledge there are more wolves in the community, informing the Prince Rupert Northern View the Conservation Office has received 72 calls regarding wolves this year, with 70 of them coming in after Nov. 7.
Of these complaints, the majority are said to have come from the 2nd Avenue West and Park Ave. area, as well as the 6th, 7th and 11th Avenue East and Seal Cove areas.
“There’s a healthy wolf population on the island because there’s a healthy deer population. There’s also lots of stray cats [for wolves to prey on],” Kluivers said.
The RCMP have also been receiving numerous calls regarding wolves. Constable Matt Ericson, spokesman for the Prince Rupert RCMP, said there have been 11 calls received regarding wolf sightings since November, with the RCMP receiving eight of those calls in December. Ericson said a majority of the sightings came from the Moresby or Sherbrooke area, with Ericson speculating the wild animals are coming down from the mountain.
Jack Mussallem, mayor of Prince Rupert, points to the time of year for the number of wolf spottings.
“People notice wolves more at this time of year. I think that’s largely because the sources of food that are readily available, such as small animals, [are now obscured] because of the snow and some smaller animals wolves would normally eat are in hibernation,” he said.
Mussallem didn’t imply the City would be pushing for a Conservation Office to be opened in Prince Rupert in the near future, however he said down the line he would like to see a Ministry of Environment office opened in the community.
“As Prince Rupert gets busier I’m hoping to see the Provincial Government start to concentrate on our area more,” he said.
Information on the Provincial Government’s website states it isn’t common for wolves to attack or pursue humans and if problems between the two occur it may be attributed to wolves becoming comfortable with people as a result of direct or indirect feeding. The website also warns British Columbians it’s an offence to feed dangerous wildlife.
Additionally, Kluivers said wolves are naturally shy of humans, but can become habituated if humans do not act threatening around the wild animals.
The government says people should not allow a wolf to come within 100 metres of them. If individuals see a wolf they should try to make themselves look larger by raising their arms and waving them in the air. People are reminded not to turn their backs to a wolf, but to back away slowly.
Although for the most part wolves tend to stay away from humans, there have been reported incidents of wolves attacking, even killing, pets in Prince Rupert a number of years ago.
To avoid having your pet targeted by a wolf, Kluivers reminds pet owners to keep dogs on a leash while walking them. If a wolf can be seen keep the dog close and pick the dog up and slowly back away if the dog is small enough.
“The wolf will just see a little dog as prey, like a cat,” he said.
The Provincial Government warns people not to leave their pets, and more importantly children, unsupervised if a wolf has been spotted in the area.