2/13/2013

Forest Creatures: Wolf

Wolves call the forests and beaches of Vancouver Island home

One of the most heartening news items I have read in a while was a few days ago. The piece told the tale of a lone wolf living on a small island just off shore from the city of Victoria.


Wolves are a symbol of wilderness wherever they live. The same as other top predators like bears and cougars, the presence of wolves is an indicator of a functioning ecosystem. Indeed, the top predators are necessary for optimal ecosystem management.


A recent survey looking at the loss of top predators (especially wolves) in the Northern Hemisphere found "that the loss of major predators in forest ecosystems has allowed game animal populations to greatly increase, crippling the growth of young trees and reducing biodiversity. This also contributes to deforestation and results in less carbon sequestration, a potential concern with climate change."



It goes on to say that "large predators can help maintain native plant communities by keeping large herbivore densities in check, allow small trees to survive and grow, reduce stream bank erosion, and contribute to the health of forests, streams, fisheries and other wildlife".



The forest needs the wolf.



View Staqeya The Wolf in a larger map



The islands off Victoria are in Songhees First Nation territory. The band gave the animal on Discovery Island the name Staqeya, which means wolf in Lekwungen.


The wolf has also been seen on Trial Island, perhaps in a bid to return to the wild. But there are a few kilometers of danger before the edge of the forest begins, and the wolf returned to Discovery Island.







Wolf is an important symbol in Coast Salish culture, and has been for eons. Many stories are told about this amazing forest creature that coexisted peacefully with the people.





Historical 60 ft Wolf Head Canoe

The most important wooden canoe design in Coast Salish territory is known as the Wolf Head Canoe.



These giant ocean going vessels are carved from huge old growth cedars more than 300 feet high. Such trees are becoming increasingly difficult for native canoe builders to find today.



Nuu Chah Nulth legend believes that the Killer Whale will come to the rescue of the Sea-Wolf when in trouble, and therefore the wolf is the figurehead on their canoes.









The design (by bands on the rough outer coast of the island) proved so seaworthy that it gained acceptance and use throughout the Salish Sea area.







That wolves can still exist on Vancouver Island after 150 years of European contact and exploitation is good news. Top predators, like wolves, are a necessary part of the ecosystem on the south coast, and are a direct link to eons of Coast Salish history.


Staqeya is reportedly lean and healthy, and could conceivably stay on the island indefinitely. She has been eating a varied diet including seals, bird, clams, crabs, and possibly river otters.


The Songhees would like to see the wolf stay. Fish and Wildlife however, has already tried to trap the animal with no success, and may try again.


But wolves, being very smart creatures, are wary of anything smelling of certain humans. I'm cheering for the wolf, and the wilderness it requires and helps maintain.

2 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. It is a happy story with a happy ending. The province gave up trying to trap the wolf (she is too smart), and they say she could live on the islands indefinitely.

      The wolf is feeding in the intertidal zone on seals and other nummy wild things, and doesn't seem to want to move on right away.

      Amazing indeed! It makes me feel good to know that the ecosystem is intact enough to support this beautiful, wild creature.

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