Parks Canada staff are now hazing wolves in Pacific Rim National Park, in attempt to instill fear back into the animals.
“We’re doing extra patrols, with the attempt to re-instill some of that wariness, what we call ‘hazing’…to try and have them be a little bit more timid around people,” Todd Windle, a human-wildlife conflict specialist at Pacific Rim National Park, told CBC News.
According to reports, parks staff have also been yelling, using air horns, and even firing loud cracker pistols to scare the animals. They started employing these tactics last week, after local Brent Woodland had a troubling encounter with a pack of wolves.
Woodland was running with his dogs along Wickaninnish Beach at dusk when he spotted a large wolf standing only a couple of metres away.
“It was stalking us,” he told CBC. “I don’t know how long it had been watching us.”
Woodland did exactly as wildlife officials would advise in this type of situation. As soon as he saw the wolf, he turned to face it, made eye contact, and made himself as big as possible. He then started screaming and yelling as loud as he could, throwing rocks and sticks in the wolf’s direction. Unfortunately, the animal didn’t back down.
“The wolf…held its ground, and it turned into a stare-down at that point,” Woodland said. That’s also when he noticed the wolf wasn’t alone. With the sun fading, he could see more wolf-like shapes moving along the treeline in the distance.
“I was surrounded by these guys basically,” he said.
Woodland told reporters that he thinks the wolves were attempting to provoke his two dogs, and Parks Canada officials agree. Luckily the dogs were leashed and stayed close to Woodland’s side as he made small steps toward the park’s visitor’s centre, which was about 400 metres away.
The centre was closed, but Woodland managed to call 911 from the balcony. It was only when the RCMP showed up, sirens blaring, that the pack of wolves took off.
Parks Canada told reporters that the wolf that initially approached Woodland is likely habituated, which means that it has lost its natural fear of humans. That’s why they want to remind the public to always keep their distance and their dogs leashed, just as Woodland did.
Knowing how to act in a situation like this doesn’t just keep you safe, it keeps the wolves safe too. Earlier this summer, Parks Canada officials were forced to kill multiple wolves in Banff, after the animals repeatedly approached park visitors and exhibited bold behaviour.
It’s also one reason that Woodland is taking a break from his usual beach run.
“I don’t want to get the wolves in trouble,” he said. “We’re in their zone.”