Long hours of anticipation are what often makes wildlife photography both incredibly frustrating and exciting.
In 2019, I travelled with a small group of photographers to a remote island off the British Columbia coast where we spent a week searching for coastal (or sea) wolves. Coastal wolves are a genetically distinct population of wolves that live in the remote temperate rainforests of coastal B.C. They are highly elusive animals and they definitely lived up to their reputation.
We had spent days hiking around the island with our First Nation guides finding only small traces of the pack. Flattened grasses where the wolves had bedded down for the night (or for a rest), the remnants of prey, and tons of tracks in the mud and sand were the only indicators that the wolves were nearby. Even though we didn’t see or photograph the wolves themselves, it was always thrilling to come across signs that they had been close by.
There is nothing like that moment when your patience finally pays off and the wild animal you’ve been looking for finally steps in front of your lens. After days of zero sightings, I felt ecstatic when this gorgeous black sea wolf suddenly appeared out of the forest and walked along the shoreline in front of us.
When this stunning female strode onto the beach, I held my breath. She looked our way with curiosity and proceeded to make her way through the intertidal zone, stopping at times to sniff the sand. She moved with ease across the beach, the dark forest behind her, the blue ocean stretched in front of her. It was incredible to see this beautiful animal in her coastal environment. Sea wolves are slightly smaller than the inland gray wolf and rely heavily on marine resources, such as seals and salmon, to survive. They can also swim long distances at sea.
Wolves are amazing animals who share many characteristics with humans. They live in extended family groups and are incredibly social. All of the members of the pack play a role in raising the young. Despite being very intelligent and family-oriented animals, wolves are constantly portrayed as an animal that needs to be managed or destroyed. Wolves are legally killed through a variety of means in British Columbia, including by hunting or trapping. Wolves are also killed through government programs to try and save threatened caribou species, despite studies finding that it isn’t wolves, but rather habitat destruction, that is causing the decline in caribou populations. Over 1200 wolves are killed annually in the Province. Slaying wolves in these ways does not make ecological, ethical or economic sense and they deserve a much higher degree of protection.
This image of the coastal wolf gliding across the sand was one of my favourites from the trip. Her dark fur with rust tones blended in with the rugged environment and I loved the almost joyous expression on her face. My hope is that people will want to learn more about these elusive and special wolves and about the ways in which we can help protect them.