Sightings of Canis lupus – or the wolf – are not unheard of in the Trail area.
They can clash with pets, so dog walkers are reminded to keep their animals leashed and close by after a pair of the wild canines was spotted in Upper Sunningdale on the weekend.
“I was up at the water tower yesterday late in the day, collecting some downed birch for a project, and ran into a pair of wolves,” Marc Desrosiers said in a message to the Trail Times. “They must have spotted me first, as I just caught them bolting away. On the lower bench, past Esling Creek, they ran upriver, so watch your dogs.”
Desrosiers described both wolves as greyish in colour.
The Trail Times asked local Conservation Officer Blair Thin to shed some light on the habituation of wolves in the Trail area and what a person should do if he/she encounters the animal.
“Wolf sightings in the West Kootenay are not rare, but not common,” he began.
Pets and livestock are the primary attractants when wolves are reported to the Conservation Officer Service (COS).
“Wolves will attack off-leash dogs as they see them as competition and a food source,”said Thin. “Wolf attack on humans is exceedingly rare, but wolf attacks on dogs are much more common.”
Additionally, the COS only deals with wolves that are deemed a threat to the public or domestic animals, which is not the case here.
However, like most wildlife, the animals are drawn to easy pickings. So the best way to avoid conflict and keep them in the wild, like any wildlife, is to manage household attractants. Notably, wolves have a highly developed sense of smell whereby they can detect prey more than two kilometres away.
“Attempt to feed pets indoors as wolves may be attracted to uneaten food left outdoors,” Thin said. “Keep the ground around bird feeders clean as wolves will predate on the rodents attracted to the discarded seeds. And never feed prey species such as deer, as wolves can and will predate on them.”
In the event of an encounter, Thin had some advice to offer.
“Carry bear spray with you to use as a deterrent against the wolf,” he continued. “If a wolf approaches, be assertive: throw rocks, yell, and make yourself appear as threatening and as large as possible.”
Wolves are a native species in the area and account for about 400 calls to B.C. conservation annually.
They play an important role in the structure of predator-prey relationships. Wolves will interact with predators like cougars and bears when competing for prey, and can influence prey populations, such as the number of deer or moose in an area.
Wolves are closely related to coyotes and domestic dogs but have noticeable differences. They are larger than coyotes and have a broader snout and rounded ear tips.