“We’ve had an increase in human-wolf encounters since the beginning of May,” explained Todd Windle, a human-wildlife conflict specialist with the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. “We’re seeing a high level of habituation of these animals.”
So far, there have been 18 incidents reported. Coastal wolves have approached people from a distance, followed them on hiking trails, and in one case attacked a dog.
A camera set up by Parks Canada captured at least four wolves moving through the area, prompting officials to issue a warning.
“We’re at a point right now where the animals are clearly habituated and we’d like to prevent them from getting further habituated and really prevent them from getting food-conditioned. That’s a behaviour that’s very difficult to unlearn,” Windle said.
There have already been two close calls at the popular Green Point campground. That’s enough to put campers on edge.
“They say clutter attracts them as much as food so just trying to keep the place clean and if we see one we’ll steer clear,” Brent Kilkenny said.
The majority of encounters have extended from the campground in the middle of the park to the south end toward Ucluelet.
Concerned residents have taken it upon themselves to get the word out. Lance Cole is documenting the sightings online, allowing the community to report any potentially dangerous encounters on his Facebook page.
“It’s not a Walt Disney World, we all think we should be able to pet the wolf or tame the cougar,” Cole said. “But don’t try to be friends with them – just be happy you saw something from way back.”
Hikers in the area are taking note.
“We will think about it, it’s good to be informed,” Maggie Dixon said. “I hope the wildlife is protected, that’s more important the tourism in my view.”
Windle said taking humans out of the equation is the only thing that will keep the predators away.
“When they start to associate people with food, they can actually approach people and be aggressive for food and it almost always ends up not very well for the animals.”