An increasing number of wolf sightings have put residents of Prince Rupert and Port Edward on alert, with the B.C. Conservation Office looking into the concerning trend.
Wolves have historically had a high population in the Skeena region, representing well over 1,000 of the estimated 8,500 wolves in the province. While wolves rarely approach humans, they frequently attack domestic animals, particularly dogs.
In Port Edward alone, there have been 19 reports of wolf sightings or encounters to the BC Conservation Office in the past three months, according to Insp. Tracy Walbauer of the Terrace Conservation Office.
“We’ve had instances of dogs being attacked and killed, residents in the community noticing wolves during the day and night, roaming freely in and around the community,” said Walbauer. “We are trying to remove some of these offending animals.”
According to Walbauer, reports in Prince Rupert have also seen an uptick.
“We get reports year-round, but it’s really ramped up here in the last two to three months,” said Walbauer.
”It’s an ongoing issue, there’s lots of wolves and there’s lots of deer. Wolves are dogs and they will go after other dogs that are people’s pets, or house cats. They’re opportunists, so they’re going to feed on whatever they can capture.”
The B.C. Conservation Office is currently using cameras and snares to monitor the activity of the wolf packs in the region, according to Walbauer. He said they are targeting non-residential areas to track the animals.
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One particularly troubling encounter was at the TOT park in Port Edward, which is used frequently by youth in the town, according to Port Edward Chief Administrative Officer Elsie Lemke.
“Obviously it’s been significant enough so that the conservation office is concerned about the amount of incidents happening here,” said Lemke.
“Certainly we do hear from our elected officials and staff quite regularly that people are trying to be a lot more cautious, they don’t let their dog off leash… just being really aware of their surroundings.”
A 2020 wolf attack in Port Edward left a senior with serious lacerations after being bitten by a wolf. While the senior had to be attended to in hospital, his injuries were not life-threatening.
An announcement from the City of Prince Rupert Nov. 28 alerted residents to the increase of sightings, while also reminding people to take precautions with the mammals.
Some advice includes carrying bear spray, keeping dogs on a leash, keeping and feeding pets indoors and never approaching a wolf.
If residents do encounter a wolf, they’re advised to throw rocks, make themselves look big and never run or play dead. Encounters should be reported to the Conservation Officers Service.