British Columbia

Wolf attack prompts call for action from Port Edward mayor

A wolf attack that sent a man in his 70s to hospital in May has prompted the mayor of Port Edward, B.C., to take action; he’s suggesting that a conservation officer should be stationed in the nearby city of Prince Rupert, and he’s also calling for a possible wolf cull. 

Knut Bjorndal says wolf cull could be necessary to deal with increased wolf sightings in community

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service says it's not sure if the wolf involved in the attack on May 29 is connected to wolves seen recently in nearby Prince Rupert. (B.C. Conservation Service/Facebook)

A wolf attack that sent a man in his 70s to hospital on May 29 has prompted the mayor of Port Edward, B.C. to take action; he's suggesting that a conservation officer should be stationed in the nearby city of Prince Rupert, and he's also calling for a possible wolf cull. 

Stan Russ suffered "significant" injuries to his lower body after a wolf attacked him in his front yard. He was flown to Vancouver for medical treatment. 

Last week, conservation officers killed a lone wolf they believe could have been responsible for the attack.

Mayor Knut Bjorndal said wolf sightings have increased in the past few weeks. 

"We haven't really had a problem up until the last couple of years with as many sightings we have had," Bjorndal told Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk. "I've never heard of a wolf attacking anybody, and I grew up in this part of the country."

He said the increase in wolves in town could be due to hunger — there are fewer deer roaming around, according to Bjorndal, which could mean the wolves have come to Port Edward to hunt. 

The best way to manage the situation, Bjorndal said, is a wolf cull. 

"The safety of our residents is my primary job," he said. 

"We need to be very careful that we don't upset the balance of wildlife, and it doesn't feel good to me to have to cull animals. But like I say, public safety is one of my paramount concerns."

Having fewer wolves in the area would put less pressure on the available food sources, Bjorndal said. 

In an emailed statement to CBC, B.C.'s Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development said it is provincial policy to support the control of individuals or populations of native species that pose a significant risk to human safety.

"That control will generally not be applied for the purpose of protecting property unless reasonable preventative measures have been taken to avoid such conflicts," the statement said, adding that managing attractants such as garbage is critical to reducing human conflict with wildlife. 

The nearest conservation officer is located in Terrace, 127 kilometres from Port Edward. Having someone stationed in Prince Rupert, 22 kilometres away, would mean an officer could identify "problem animals" sooner. 

The Ministry of Environment said the Conservation Officer Service uses a "zone deployment model" in many communities in B.C., which enables conservation officers to work remotely, out of their patrol vehicles, to respond to concerns throughout a given area. Between that and the use of technology, conservation officers can respond to issues in Prince Rupert from Terrace. 

"Conservation officer deployment is regularly reviewed and adjusted by the COS as required," the ministry said. 

In the meantime, Bjorndal is advising residents to be vigilant. 

"If you're outside make sure that you're taking care of the children, dogs on a leash ... and keep a wary eye out for wolves," he said.  "Stay in open spaces so you can see quite a distance. I wouldn't be walking around on trails around Port Edward or Prince Rupert given the amount of wolves we have encountered in the last few weeks."

With files from Daybreak North


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