Wolf warning issued for Pacific Rim Park near Tofino, B.C. after close calls with campers
"It's definitely a concern when a wolf approaches an occupied campsite"
A wolf warning has been issued for Pacific Rim National Park Reserve near Tofino, B.C.after two alarming wolf encounters in the Green Point campground this past weekend.
Todd Windle, a human-wildlife conflict specialist with Parks Canada, says in one instance a woman opened her tent to let her dog out, only to find a wolf standing just metres away watching the tent. The two animals engaged in a tense standoff for a few seconds before the woman scooped up the dog and took refuge in her car.
The second incident involved a wolf walking out of the forest into a group campsite while people were eating, coming within five metres of the group.
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14 wolf encounters since May 1
"It's definitely a concern when a wolf approaches an occupied campsite," said Windle.
Since the beginning of May, 14 wolf encounters have been reported in the park, although Windle believes many more have likely gone unreported.
"We don't know the exact number of wolves in the area, but we do know there are two packs — one with at least five adults and one with at least three adults," said Windle. "We believe it's two yearling wolves from the larger pack that are approaching the campsites."
Wolf-human encounters inevitable
Windle says spotting a wolf can be a once-in-a-lifetime thrill, and with 800,000 visitors in Pacific Rim Park every year, there's bound to be sightings.
But he warns that people need to be aware of what to do when they encounter a wolf, not only to stay safe but to preserve the healthy fear that exists naturally between wolves and humans.
"Do not let a wolf approach within less than 100 metres," said Windle. "Wave your arms, honk, use an air horn, yell. Keep dogs on a leash. And be mindful of attractants — leaving things out or behind in a campsite or firepit."
Wolves like dogs
Because wolves are mainly carnivorous, a dog can prove to be a powerful attractant.
Last year two wolves attacked two off-leash dogs near Wickanninish Beach. One of the dogs was killed.
Wolves will also also seek out human food and garbage, which in turn can lead to escalating problems and the eventual destruction of the animals, as was the case earlier this week in Banff National Park.
"[The Pacific Rim wolves] are already showing signs of habituation and are well down that path," said WIndle. "Their natural wariness to humans in waning. The second issue is food conditioning — getting food rewards for behavior and starting to associate people with food."
How to stay safe
The Pacific Rim Park wolf warning advises people to;
- Hike in a group and make noise.
- Stay alert and watch for signs of wolves like tracks or droppings.
- Keep small children close and dogs leashed.
- Back away slowly maintaining eye contact if you encounter a wolf.
- Yell, wave arms, try to look bigger.
- Throw rocks or use pepper spray if a wolf approaches.
- If the aggression escalates, fight back.
Parks Canada has an ongoing effort to track the wolves using information gleaned from sightings and video and photos gathered through a network of motion-triggered cameras.
Windle says co-existing with wolves in the Pacific Rim reserve is a balancing act that requires effort and education.
"I challenge people to learn more about wolves, but we also have to remember not to love them to death."
With files from Megan Thomas