Takaya: Lone Wolf

The remarkable story of a solitary wolf living against the odds and his close bond with renowned wildlife photographer Cheryl Alexander
Available on CBC Gem

Takaya: Lone Wolf

Nature of Things

When a male lone wolf is spotted prowling a small, uninhabited archipelago just off the coast of Victoria, local resident, environmentalist and conservation photographer Cheryl Alexander goes in for a closer look. Thanks to her extraordinary commitment and connection with the wolf, Alexander unearths a compelling seven-year tale of an animal that pushes the boundaries of his world — and ours. Takaya: Lone Wolf recounts the inspirational story of one animal’s resilience, adaptation and survival as he takes on the odds, and reveals that humans can coexist with apex predators that are often perceived as a lethal threat.

Alexander is captivated by Takaya from the moment she first spots him howling at sunset. Amid widespread rumours and theories, she’s determined to find out where he came from, how he got to what’s known as Discovery Island and how he survives in his new marine environment — a place lacking any deer or elk to hunt and a year-round supply of freshwater. Another mystery is why, despite being a highly social pack animal, Takaya appears to have chosen to live a life of quiet isolation.

Watch as Alexander describes why she is so captivated by Takaya.

Retracing Takaya’s steps from the mainland, Alexander discovers photographic evidence of his solo migration through the urban landscape and learns of his epic swim to the Island through some of the strongest currents on the B.C. coast. Trail camera footage, fresh scat and other clues indicate Takaya learns quickly and has adapted to his marine environment.

Alexander sets out to capture his hunting behaviours on camera, and her efforts prove the wolf has mastered techniques for catching unfamiliar prey, including skinning seals for efficient consumption. She also meets up with an expert on wolf vocalizations to learn about what Takaya might be saying with his lonesome-sounding howls.

Victoria photographer spends years documenting the life of a lone wolf off Vancouver Island
Victoria's lone wolf: After years of living alone, he may have a potential companion

A trip to Yellowstone National Park sheds more light on Takaya’s unique situation. Since being reintroduced to the park in the mid-90s, the wolves of Yellowstone have become some of the best-studied in the world, and Alexander joins an expert on location to better understand how critical pack life is to wolves — and just how precarious life is for an ageing lone wolf.

Back in B.C., Alexander wonders what lies in store for Takaya in his solitary existence. That is, until she finds out a female wolf has been spotted on the edges of the city. And it looks like she’s headed for Discovery Island.

UPDATE: In late January, 2020, Takaya left his island home after 7 years of living alone and made the journey across the water, ending up in downtown Victoria, B.C. After being tranquillized by local conservation officers, Takaya was released in a new home north of the city. He was shot and killed by a hunter a few months later.