Conservation officer Zane Testawich on June 3, has been completing roving patrols of Prince Rupert and Port Edward due to increased wolf sightings and an attack on local man. Prince Rupert City Council voted to formally request of the Province that an officer be posted to the local area. (Photo:K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Wolves are becoming more predatory, Conservation Officer Service warns

Lack of fear and attraction to humans led to a recent wolf attack on Port Edward senior citizen

A recent wolf attack was predatory in nature, said the Conservation Officer Service (COS) about the assault on a Port Edward senior citizen.

“The preliminary findings of the investigation are that the wolf through opportunity began attacking the victim. The attack was predatory in nature,” Tracy Walbauer, Sergeant with the North Coast Zone COS said of the May 29 incident.

Walbauer said the wolf returned to the attack scene while first responders were attending to the victim after initially being scared away. The wolf, for a third time, returned to the attack scene an hour later.

“The movements of the wolf showed predatory actions and not of an animal reacting from a surprise defensive encounter,” Walbauer said.

Wide spread human attraction and acclimation to people has occurred in the Port Edward and Prince Rupert areas. Conservation officers have observed extensive wolf activity at the landfill site day and night with active feeding.

Trail networks used by wolves were observed by officers between Port Edward and the landfill site for a four km distance. Wolves have been seen by both industrial workers in the area and by officers.

“The abundance of feral cats in Port Edward and Prince Rupert is contributing to wolves frequenting residential areas. Feral cats are an easy prey for the wolves and have contributed to wolves being seen in town,” Walbauer stressed.

“Both the feeding at the landfill and the abundant supply of an easy food source of feral cats has led to significant wolf habituation and are contributing factors to the recent attack.”

Walbauer cites the example of a discarded shoe in the landfill. Conservation officers observed at least one wolf using it as a play toy. Each night officers would find the shoe in a different location with more and more teeth marks in it. This is just one example of how wolves have become reluctant to avoid human scent and presence, he said.

The Conservation Officer Service has received reports during the past 10 days of wolves directly approaching vehicles within 10 feet and more reports of attacks on cats and dogs.

READ MORE: UPDATED: Port Edward senior in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack requires surgery

According to Walbauer improvements have already been made to the landfill fencing and gates in efforts to deter wolf activity at the location. This has been done with the assistance of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. As well, conservation officers are working with the District of Port Edward to improve the feral cat situation.

“Although there are still wolves around the wilderness areas of both Port Edward and Prince Rupert, C.O.’s believe the risk of further attacks have been significantly reduced. C.O.’s will continue to respond to wolf complaints as required to keep both communities safe,” Walbauer said.

Wolf attacks on humans are rare, and the COS has dealt with only two other cases in B.C. dating back to 2007 and 2000. In both prior cases the men survived.

“The loss of the natural fear of humans undoubtedly led to the wolf responsible for the attack (in Port Edward) progressing to a stage where a man became its victim.”

The victim was released from hospital in Vancouver on June 17, after receiving further medical treatment for injuries sustained during the wolf attack, said Walbauer. The COS is confident that the wolf destroyed four days after the attack is the offending wolf, according to DNA results from an independent lab.

“Residents can take some comfort knowing that this animal is no longer posing risk to residents and pets in the community,” Walbauer said.

READ MORE: Prince Rupert wolf attack on man reported on social media is unsubstantiated, said COS

K-J Millar | Journalist 
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