Conservation officers warn to keep dogs on leash after wolf sightings

Several rare wolf sightings in the Cowichan Valley recently have B.C. Conservation officers telling people to keep their dogs on a leash when they’re out walking in rural surroundings.

South Cowichan Community Policing reported that a wolf had approached dog-walkers in the Rat Lake area in Mill Bay last week.

Wolf-human contact is unusual on Vancouver Island, said Conservation Officer Rick Dekelver.

“

We don’t get a lot of sightings reported, maybe half a dozen a year, so they’re not being seen in residential areas, the sightings that I’m aware of are when people get off the beaten track and up into the bush and up on the hills and stuff. Sometimes a quad or somebody hiking might see one across the lake,” he said, explaining that sighting of bears and cougars are far more common, but that there are wolves who call the Island home.

If you see a wolf, you should “give them their space” and allow them to be wild, as you would with any predator, Dekelver said.

Wolves will usually avoid contact with humans.

“They’re going to run off once they see you,” he said.

If they don’t, they are likely protecting a kill or something else they consider to be their territory.

In such a situation you should make a large circuit around the animal, or back away in the direction you came from.

“Avoid any unnecessary contact,” said Dekelver.

In the unlikely event that a wolf is aggressive towards you, you can speak in a loud dominant voice, and hold your jacket up and out to make yourself appear bigger. You should pick up any children or small animals.

You should never turn and run, Dekelver said, as that will trigger a predator/prey — with you as the prey — response in a wolf.

Dogs should be kept on a leash, he said, as they will try to investigate a wolf, who will view such behaviour as a threat and respond accordingly.

Conservation officers looked Thursday for the wolf that had approached the dog-walkers. The site of the search was the old Bamberton haul road the runs parallel to the Trans Canada Highway near Mill Bay.

The lone wolf may be looking for a mate and does not pose an immediate safety concern, said a Ministry of Environment spokesperson.

With a file from the Times Colonist

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