Refuge Pageau founder, 'wolf whisperer' Michel Pageau dead at 75

Abitibi-Témiscamingue is grieving the death of Michel “wolf whisperer” Pageau, the founder of Refuge Pageau which looks after wild animals in need of rehabilitation.

Pageau's work in animal rehabilitation in Abitibi-Témiscamingue dates back to 1970s

Michel Pageau is known for his love of animals and is the face of Quebec in french-speaking countries around the world, according to Abitibi-Témiscamingue's tourism director general. (Refuge Pageau/Facebook)

Abitibi-Témiscamingue is grieving the death of "wolf whisperer" Michel Pageau, the founder of Refuge Pageau, a sanctuary which looks after wild animals in need of rehabilitation.

He died at 75 of a pulmonary embolism.

Pageau spent his lifetime helping and caring for animals. His work started getting media attention in 1974 in Cléricy, a small town about 600 kilometres northwest of Montreal, where he and his wife adopted a young beaver.

Pageau's one-and-a-half month old kitchen beaver, Counou, appeared in an Abitibi-Témiscamingue newspaper in 1974. (Le Trotteur du Maquignon)
The story was picked up by the Abitibi-Témiscamingue publication Le Trotteur du Maquignon. Its editor, Laurier Larouche, said after meeting Pageau, "this fellow, when you meet him once, you know him forever."

From those beginnings, Pageau took in numerous animals and eventually opened his animal sanctuary, Refuge Pageau, in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region in 1986. 

The refuge, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in August, now welcomes thousands of visitors yearly and tends to about 150 wild animals before releasing them back into the wild. 

Films were made about Pageau including: Michel Pageau trappeur, J'ai entendu pleurer la forêt (Michel Pageau trapper, I heard the forest cry) and Il parle avec les loups (He speaks with wolves). (Radio-Canada)

Since its founding, the refuge increasingly became a tourist attraction in the region.

Randa Napky, the director general of the local tourism commission, said that Pageau strongly represented the image of the area and Quebec at an international level.

"He was also known in France, among the world's francophones and in Europe," Napky said.

Pageau's health had been declining for several years prior to his death and the animal sanctuary has been increasingly led by his daughter Nathalie and his son-in-law Félix Offroy.