Discovery Island closed to visitors

BC Parks, Conservation Officer Service to evaluate resident wolf

Routine visitors, including photographers, may have ruined a good thing for a lone wolf on Discovery Island.

BC Parks announced Monday the park is closed until spring 2017 while they do “behavioural assessments on the animal to determine if there are any public safety concerns.”

A recent wolf/human interaction at Discovery Island Provincial Park led the provincial Conservation Officer Service to recommend BC Parks close the park for fall and winter. During this time the COS and BC Parks will conduct behavioural assessments on the animal to determine if there are any public safety concerns.

On Sept. 10, a family camping with a dog contacted the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria and said they were cornered by the animal. The Coast Guard and armed fisheries conservation officers escorted the campers off the island.

“The incident of Sept. 10, although it seems the wolf was probably most interested in the dog, not the people, the behaviour of it indicates it doesn’t have as much fear of people as it used to,” said Conservation Officer Peter Pauwels. “It was coming quite close to the people with the dog, and it’s the first time we’ve had behaviour like that reported.”

Dogs and other pets were banned from the 61-hectare park shortly after the wolf was first reported to conservation in May 2012. At that time the park was closed to the public while conservation officers tried unsuccessfully to trap the wolf. Food caches were installed prior to reopening to visitors.

“In the four years it’s been there, it’s been gradually losing its fear of people,” Pauwels said. “It would seem that over the years it’s seeing people over there on a regular basis and not having any negative consequences.”

While the potential exists for a more lengthy closure, BC Parks anticipates re-opening the park in spring 2017.

“After the winter we’ll take another look at the situation and weigh out what our options are with respect to reopening the park.”

The conservation service offers a best guess based on photographs indicating the wolf is a male in the six-year-old range.

“We don’t know a whole lot else about it,” Pauwels said. “We do think it swam there, probably from the Oak Bay area. We did have some sightings in the spring 2012 in and around Elk Lake area. There was a flurry of sightings of this wolf-like animal being seen on rural properties there.”

They expected it to attempt to get to the nearest known wolves in the lower Island, in Sooke hills, Shawnigan and Sooke Lake areas, he said.

“We didn’t expect it would stay there this long. We thought that biological urges to seek the company of other wolves would be strong enough to make it leave the Island. I think it would probably like to be off that island and be with other wolves but it hasn’t been able to do it.”