By Jynee Linnea Bent  

On a small group of islands off the coast of Victoria lives an exceptional wolf. Known as Takaya, he arrived seven years ago and has been alone ever since — unusual for an animal that typically lives in a family pack. His remarkable story is featured in Takaya: Lone Wolf, a documentary from The Nature of Things

It’s believed that Takaya left his pack as a juvenile, a behaviour that wolf experts call “dispersal,” possibly ready to strike out and create a family of his own. Whatever his motivation, he ended up in Victoria, and then swam one and a half kilometres, through some of the strongest currents along the coast, to reach the Discovery and Chatham Islands.

Takaya has adapted to his marine environment over the years. But is he as lonely? And if so, will he ever find a mate with whom he can share his island home?

A lonely howl

Traditionally, lone wolves don’t howl as much as pack wolves, tending to keep a lower profile. Takaya is an exception. His howls can be heard often during mating season — even in Victoria.

Cheryl Alexander, an environmentalist and conservation photographer appearing in the documentary, has followed Takaya and listened to his howls for years. “They are so impactful, emotionally. I’d like to know if he is lonely. Does he really miss having his own kind around?” she wonders.

“The intriguing thing about this lone wolf is that … an act of natural dispersal has left it trapped by urbanization on an island of loneliness,” says John Theberge, a wolf expert who taught at the University of Waterloo. “There, it gives voice, through its howls, to its deeply held emotions and social needs — all very similar to ours.”

A female wolf is spotted nearby

After seven years, there may finally be an end to Takaya’s isolation. Last winter, Alexander received an email that a wolf had been spotted sitting near rocks in front of somebody’s mainland home. Her first thought was, “Takaya has finally left the island!” But photographs revealed that this was a new lone wolf — a female.

Since then, Alexander has investigated multiple reports that there is a female wolf prowling near the point where Takaya is rumoured to have started his swim. “This whole process has been somewhat of a series of lucky coincidences with a sprinkle of fate,” she says.

Is it possible that this female lone wolf heard Takaya’s call and is also seeking companionship? According to the documentary, wolf calls can be heard from several kilometres away. David Mech, a wolf expert and professor from the University of Minnesota adds that “wolves have been known to travel far and wide, up to 500 to 600 miles [804 to 965 kilometres], to find a mate.”

He also notes that female wolves around the age of two generally disperse from their pack to seek companionship during breeding season. In B.C., this would happen in mid- to late February and March, says Mech, which is around the time that the new female wolf was seen on the shoreline across from Takaya’s home.

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Theberge thinks that it’s possible the female heard Takaya and is following in his footsteps to find him. “Takaya’s lonely howls are most likely just a natural response to his internal hormones … and now they have reached out far enough to get a reply.”

Alexander doesn’t believe the female wolf’s presence is a coincidence either. “I think, somehow, she was trying to find him,” she says. “The chances of her coming to exactly this spot are really slim … without some kind of communication.”

Hope for a companion still exists

Last spotted in late summer 2019, the female lone wolf has since been keeping quiet and staying under the radar. “If the female wolf hasn’t made an attempt to trek [to] Discovery Island, the chances are that she probably never will,” says Mech.

But as long as the female is still in the area, Alexander has hope. "The romantic part of me hopes this story for Takaya ends in a lovely female wolf making her way out to the islands and keeping him company and hunting with him throughout the last years of his life," she says.  "In the best of all possible worlds, they would produce a litter of pups and his strong lineage would carry on." She does, however, recognize that the addition of another wolf or pups would prove difficult given the limited territory that Takaya lives in. Should this happen though, she strongly believes that nature should be allowed to take its course without human interference.

With or without a female companion, however, Takaya seems to have found peace in being alone. “I think we have a human need for companionship, but we also have a really strong sense of independence and need to be self-reliant. Watching this wolf has been very inspiring, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be comfortable alone,” says Alexander.

Watch Takaya: Lone Wolf on The Nature of Things

 

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