A rare sight of a wolf swimming Discovery Passage was caught on video in Campbell River on Saturday.
Sharon Herbin, who works at Painter’s Lodge Resort, captured cellphone video of the creature as it swam ashore. She was working in her office when a guide noticed the animal, originally thinking it was a bear.
Employees gathered on the docks to watch, since it’s rare to see a bear swimming, said Herbin, who supervises the resort’s marine centre.
“As it’s coming to land, all of a sudden one of the dock attendants goes, ‘It’s a wolf!’ And at basically the same time, I’m going ‘It’s a wolf!” she said. “It was (a) total shock.”
It appeared to be swimming across the waters of the Discovery Passage from Gowlland Island, off Quadra Island, a distance of roughly 2.5 km. It was perhaps 30-40 feet away when it came to shore, she said, adding that it was dark in colour.
Herbin has seen wolves on a few occasions, but this was the first time she saw one so close to a populated area. It was also the first time she saw one swimming in the ocean.
In the video, the animal is hard to make out against the background, but Herbin said she’s sure it was a wolf, noting that guides who observed the animal with binoculars also confirmed that it was a wolf, not a dog.
“Once you’ve seen a wolf, you know it’s a wolf,” she said.
In the video, the animal swims ashore and then runs across the rocks towards the nearby greenery. The original video posted on Herbin’s Facebook page had been viewed more than 14,000 times by Tuesday morning.
It wasn’t the only wild animal that Herbin saw that morning. Oddly enough, a seal appears to be following the wolf. The seal’s head is visible in the original video, until the wolf climbs ashore and the seal goes underwater.
The Vancouver Island wolf is a subspecies of the mainland grey wolf and is considered endangered, according to VI-Wilds, a website maintained by the Institute for Coastal and Oceans Research at the University of Victoria.
The estimated population is under 150, according to the website, citing 2008 figures from the Ministry of the Environment.
The animal usually stays away from human activity and is most commonly found on the North Island, along with Barkley Sound and Clayoquot Sound on the west coast.
The wolves prey on black-tailed deer and Roosevelt elk, and pursue smaller game including squirrels, rodents and beavers when larger prey are in low supply.
The VI-Wilds website says that “(s)ome controversy surrounds the wolves as they are one of the animals being blamed for the continuing decline of the Vancouver Island marmot.”
The main threat to the Vancouver Island wolf is habitat destruction. Hunting of wolves does take place, and the “active hunting of reproductive adult wolves undoubtedly has the potential to extinguish the population on Vancouver Island.”
Government-sanctioned hunts have taken place to preserve the deer population or reduce pressure on the marmot, according to VI-Wilds.