A pack of wolves which had grown cozy feeding off the kindness of strangers were destroyed on Nov. 14 because they had become too habituated to human contact.
Area conservation officer Dale Kluivers confirmed last week that the wolves, which to some people had been an attraction around the Hospital Beach area, had become way too comfortable around humans, a dangerous thing to be when you’re a wild animal.
Two wolves had been seen for about two weeks prior to Kluivers arrival to their hangout and he said in all there was a family of five.
“They were very habituated. When I came there they came right to the truck,” he said. “They were really looking for handouts.”
He said conversations with Rio Tinto Alcan employees revealed that the wolves would actually follow people around who parked at the beach and got out of their vehicles.
“By feeding them…they get so accustomed to human food that it decreases their natural food gathering skills,” said Kluivers. “They should be hunting deer and moose with their family.”
The potential danger to humans is that if they don’t receive a steady supply of food once they’re habituated like these ones are, they can get quite bold in their behaviour.
Kluivers suspects these wolves were being fed by people in the summer and through the fall but as the weather got colder people stopped coming by as often.
“Because they ware so skinny, I think they just didn’t know how else to get their food anymore.”
Maryann Ouellet, who manages the Kitimat Humane Society shelter, said that they initially heard about the wolves when they received a call about a “mangy looking dog.”
When she got there she found one of the wolves laying on a rock. She thought it was a coyote at first.
Speaking to the Sentinel before the wolves were destroyed, she said she already knew what likely lay in store for the animals, due to the fact they were being fed.
“You’ve basically just signed their death warrant,” she said.
Efforts were made by her to try to get the wolves into a wildlife shelter, but wolves cannot be legally trapped without receiving special permits, and Kluivers thinks destroying them was actually the best option for them.
“I don’t like to destroy those beautiful animals. [But] for the animals themselves, it’s no suffering anymore. I think for the animal itself it’s the best solution.”
He said putting them into a shelter would mean they would have to spend their entire lives in a cage.
Relocation also likely wouldn’t work because, due to their habituation and lack of hunting skills, they would very quickly end up in a work camp or in a town somewhere.
The biggest takeaway for the public from this is to think before trying to feed wild animals.
Handing food to them will only make them dependent on food and take away their own ability to hunt.
Meanwhile anyone who notices a wildlife violation can call 1-877-952-7277, or use an online form at the BC Conservation Officers website.