General News · 26th March 2011
... continued from part 1
Grace Hays and Richard Andrews facilitated this portion of the workshop. This was begun with a review and expansion of Grace’s suggestions for healthy Wolf-Human relations, as well as wolf behavior and body-language. Here I will only relate the expanded information.
Grace explained that good animal protection means good, wolf proof barns and wolf proof fencing, ideally 8ft feet high, flat metal, without any jump off points near the fence or angled support posts. Grace is working on finding some grants to help livestock owners pay for new fencing. FOCI is also organising fencing work bees to help folks with their fencing needs. Grace also recommends a good guard dog or donkey, well trained and with protective instincts.
Grace stressed that we should never approach wolf pups: ignore them. They are not supposed to be in contact with humans until they are older. She went on to say that when we’re in neutral territory we shouldn’t haze wolves, but rather express our feelings: if you’re uneasy or scared, tell them. Listen to yourself. But don’t let your fear take over. If they come closer, get louder, but be aware that they may be keeping you away from something: take the hint and go where they tell you, don’t run, stay loud and strong. They hate the airhorn, carry one if you are concerned. Remember the statistics: healthy wolves almost never attack people.
Grace doesn’t recommend talking to the wolves as you can’t know what you’re saying and you could be flirting with someone.
And with that introduction, the floor was opened up to community members with questions and comments for each other and our visiting guests. Here I will try to summarize the important points:
• One attendant expressed concerns about the dumping of meat waste in the Bartholomew clearcut. There was also clear frustration expressed over wolves playing with vehicles and her in her yard despite a pot and pan hazing. This person is feeling threatened by wolves, with livestock and children being of paramount concern. Work on fencing is underway. Concern was also expressed over rumours of poisonings; a story was related in which it was believed that a creature had been poisoned, an unintended victim. This person expressed the opinion that conservation officers should kill the habituated wolves. It was acknowledged that this opinion is not a popular one and the speaker related feeling uncomfortable and awkward at having come to these conclusions and sharing them publicly. There was then some comforting and praise for those individuals bravely expressing views and opinions regarding wolves that are thought to be unpopular. We must be honest and open with each other and support one another through these challenging times.
• Another member of the community asked why there seemed to be a recent rise in wolf-human interactions now? Bob Hansen explained that areas are being recolonized. There seems to be a wave going down Vancouver Island. One cause for the increase is large clearcuts that initially (for~20 years) boost deer populations, then they become ‘ungulate barrens’, large tracts of land with no undergrowth on which deer can feed, and wolves get hungry. The wolves then move to the ‘ocean buffet’, which is where a lot of humans live, work and play… bringing us into their landscape.
• Much discussion in the community dialogue centred on practical solutions. There are new products intended to keep wolves away, chemical scents; lasts for 3 months & mimics bear urine or wolves urine. Red flags along fences are another new tool that can work for a little while or a long time. Somebody shared that there is a zoo that sells dried lion urine, and it works to keep deer away!
• Grace tells us that she has gotten permission from the Province, for Cortesians to take logs from the beach to build better barns and fences.
• Bob Hansen shared his opinion that if deer populations rise, wolves respond with increases, then deer numbers drop and wolves look for alternatives. This leads to livestock and pets being targeted. Change is the only constant. He went on to say that in PRNPR, wolves that were involved in threatening conflicts with park visitors’ dogs were shot. Attacks on dogs dropped dramatically, though some conflicts continued and those wolves were killed, since then things have been okay. We have to work hard to keep gains and multiple solutions are required.
• Someone suggested that we use our mapping skills to identify wildlife corridors and humans’ protected territory. Then we can try to train wolves and humans to these areas. Maps can clarify these zones for us. This can help us to respect their space as much as teaching them to respect ours.
• Someone else wished to point out that it is not malicious intent that drives human/wolf conflict. Wolves are simply trying to make a living in a changing world the best way they know how, with instincts and behaviours that have been developed over millenia.
• It was asked of the experts: is it possible to ‘unhabituate’ a wolf, to which several answers came in. Wolves won’t keep trying to jump a fence that they couldn’t get over yesterday; meaning that with improvements in property protection, wolves will lose interest and stop coming around. It was also offered that unlearning is much harder than learning; food rewards are powerful lessons.
• Is it possible for wolves to dig under a fence? Grace Hays shared her experience that a solid fence seems to invite this more. There is only one case that Grace knows of where a wolf dug under a fence.
• Another attendant shared the view that we are, ourselves, large & dangerous predators and that we therefore need not fear wolves. We should be strong, and this the wolves will respect.
And as the hour became late and energy faded, the community dialogue session ended and the workshop closed with a reading from Aldo Leopold.
Thanks were given to those who travelled from afar to share their wisdom with the community of Cortes Island.
Sincere thanks were again extended to Klahoose First Nation for their generosity in welcoming the Cortes community to hold this workshop in the Big Hall; of note: Bev Hills/ Band Administrator and Kevin Peacey/ Building Manager, both of whom made substantial contributions. Special thanks were given to Sabina Leader Mense for the organization of this much needed and highly successful event.
Learning to Live with Wolves on Cortes Island
We need to keep our wolves WILD; here's what each of us can do!
1. Never feed wolves
It is illegal and completely irresponsible to feed wolves as it endangers you, your fellow community members and the wolves!
*Take care not to leave meat or seafood scraps out near your home or in your
compost pile. Dispose of these responsibly; dig into a pit or feed to the crabs.
2. Do not feed deer or raccoons; they are prey species of wolves.
Food conditioned deer and raccoons WILL attract wolves to your doorstep and your neighbours. Be responsible to yourself and your community.
3. Keep yourself safe
HAZE wolves ! when you encounter them in a residential area i.e. near your
home, your neighbour's, the community halls, stores, schools etc.
Wave your arms to make yourself look bigger, shout loudly and use noisemakers.
Let the wolves know, in no uncertain terms, that they need to fear you and you
will not tolerate their presence in this place
Use your most aggressive body language; take on the alpha role.
*Take an airhorn and/or bear spray along as an extra precaution when hiking alone off the beaten track or working the beaches at night.
4. Keep your pets safe
Dogs must be leashed when walked; unleashed dogs are seen as prey by wolves.
Take an airhorn and/or bear spray along as an extra precaution when walking dogs, as dogs are a magnet for wolves. Wolves view all dogs as a territorial threat.
*Ensure all pets are secured overnight in sturdy, predator proof kennels outside or
kept inside your house at night.
*Keep outside pet feeding areas clean; never leave uneaten food in them.
*Do not take your dogs with you when hiking in natural areas frequented by wolves i.e. Carrington Bay, Von Donop Inlet, Hank's Beach, Marina Island, etc.
5. Practice good animal husbandry
Ensure all livestock are secured inside sturdy, fenced (6' high) enclosures by day and predator proof shelters by night. Free-ranging livestock are seen as prey by wolves.
*If wolves approach livestock during the day, HAZE them; scare them away, shooting over their heads if necessary.
*After butchering livestock, dispose of carcasses responsibly; buried deeply and ideally well away from residential areas.
As a community, work together and CONSISTENTLY follow these guidelines!
We must keep our wolves WILD in order to live together with them.
Report routine wolf sightings to the FOCI office at 250 935 0087 and report wolf encounters of concern to the COS at 1 877 952 RAPP (7277).