Thunder Bay

Lakehead University researchers examine how people, wild canines co-exist

A team of Lakehead University researchers is examining how people in Ontario are co-existing with wild canines through a year-long research project that involves collecting first-hand accounts of encounters with the animals.

Project involves collecting stories of encounters with wolves and coyotes in Ontario

A Lakehead University research team is studying how humans are co-existing with wolves and coyotes in Ontario. (Parks Canada)

A team of Lakehead University researchers is examining how people in Ontario are co-existing with wild canines through a year-long research project that involves collecting first-hand accounts of encounters with the animals.

The research is being conducted by Lakehead's Gail Kuhl and Connie Russell, and the project officially launched last weekend, Kuhl said.

Kuhl's interest in the topic grew out of her dissertation in educational studies.

"My area of interest is environmental education, especially, and what I did is I interviewed wolf educators from around North America," she said. "After I finished my dissertation research, people just kept sending me stories of wolves that they'd seen, pictures of wolves, links to articles about wolves."

"My answer is often I'm not a wolf biologist, I'm a social scientist, so I look at more human-animal relationships rather than just studying the biology or ecology of wolves."

However, Kuhl's interest remained, and she wanted to begin collecting stories of encounters with wild canines, which led to the research project.

For the project itself, Kuhl and Russell are hoping to collect a variety of stories about encounters with wild canines in Ontario.

"We do want stories of conflict," she said. "You know, people feel threatened by having wolves living nearby, if they have, perhaps, pets. Those are stories we want to hear for sure."

However, the researchers are also looking for stories that capture the "everyday experience of living alongside wild canines," Kuhl said.

This poster providing more details about the Wild Canine Encounters research project has been circulating on social media. Gail Kuhl and Connie Russell can be contacted at the email addresses listed. (Gail Kuhl/Provided)

"We do want stories of, 'we hear them every night outside,' or, you know, 'we're seeing the tracks and we see them crossing our property,'" she said. "So, we want both types of stories."

The first phase of the research will be collecting the stories themselves, Kuhl said. The second phase will involve interviewing some of the respondents, in hopes of getting more detail and hearing their ideas for how people and wild canines can co-exist.

"I think the best way to learn about how people are co-existing with coyotes and wolves, is actually to talk to people who are co-existing with wolves and coyotes," she said. "I think that's important information for conservationists."

The Wild Canine Encounters project is now accepting stories that occurred in Ontario within the last five years. Submissions can be made by Ontario residents over age 18.

For more information, or to submit a story, contact Kuhl or Russell via the email addresses included in the poster embedded above.

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