Wolf warning in Fort Simpson after animals seen lurking in community

Wildlife officers in Fort Simpson are asking people to travel in groups and avoid leaving garbage on their properties, after several wolf sightings in the community over the past few weeks.

Wildlife officer shot and killed a wolf in his own driveway last week

'We are in wolf country, and this is an annual event,' says Carl Lafferty. This photo was taken in Fort Simpson, N.W.T. last year by Maxine Norwegian. (Submitted by Maxine Norwegian)

Wildlife officers in Fort Simpson are asking people to travel in groups and avoid leaving garbage on their properties, after a string of wolf sightings in the community over the past several weeks.

"Wolves are showing up outside people's residences in the wee hours and it seems like they're trying to get access to their pets," says Carl Lafferty, regional superintendent in the Deh Cho for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Last week, a wildlife officer shot and killed a wolf in the middle of the night in his own driveway, says Lafferty. The animal had been lurking around his property for several nights in a row.

 A number of small wolf packs have been spotted on the outskirts of the community of 1,200.

"One of our local RCMP members, during the day on the way to the landfill, was fortunate enough to video some wolves crossing in front of his vehicle, and there must have been about five of them," says Lafferty.

"We had a harvester that was returning late in the evening about a week and a half ago, and as he was pulling up to the community boat launch, there was four wolves waiting for him there," he adds.

Wolves are no stranger to the area, especially around this time of year. But Lafferty says there are more than usual.

"They seem to have lost a bit of their fear which is why we're asking people just to be a little bit more wolf aware."

Face to face with a wolf?  

"If you do have to go for a walk in the early morning hours or in the evening, don't go alone…[and] keep your dog on a leash," advises Lafferty.

If you actually run into a wolf, he recommends trying to make yourself as a big as possible, maintaining eye contact and slowly backing away.  

"Act aggressively to it: make noise, clap your hands, blow a whistle. Most people travel with bear bangers when they're out hiking. Maybe it's a good opportunity to discharge one of those."  

He's not sure what's drawing so many wolves to the community this year, but he says it may have to do with people leaving attractants such as garbage, dog food or drying meat outside.

"And I can't stress enough that there's safety in numbers. Join up with your friends, and go for a walk together: four, five, six people... That way they can enjoy the outdoors without having to fear being exposed to wolves."