Coastal wolves of BC

Two distinct types of wolves living very different lives exist in BC: mainland timber wolves and coastal wolves.  The latter is not well documented, and only in the past two decades have they begun to be researched. They have proven hard to study, as they are low density and elusive animals however, First Nations peoples on the coast have considerable knowledge of their natural history. 

Coastal wolves are social animals genetically, morphologically, and behaviourally different from the mainland wolves.  They hunt, live in packs, and obey a strong social hierarchy lead by the alpha male and female. The diet of the subspecies of wolves on BC's coastal islands, dubbed the “Sea Wolf” relies heavily (i.e. 75%) on marine life including spawning salmon, barnacles, clams, crabs, herring roe, and the occasional beached seal, sea lion and whale.

Conservation issues

Photo via

Photo via

Coastal wolves once vastly occupied the west coast ranging from California to Alaska. By the 1920s, North American coastal gray wolves were extirpated South of the Great Bear Rainforest and today you can only find them along the central coast of BC. Habitat loss, industrial forestry, increased marine traffic, trophy hunting and agriculture contributed to their drastic decline and continue to threaten the remaining populations today. 

B.C.’s government management plans for the gray wolf has included culls since 2015 to help caribou populations recover from severe declines. Although the cull affects inland wolves more so than on the coast, it is clear it stems from a management strategy not backed by rigorous scientific data. A significant number of studies have proven that the greatest threats to caribou populations is habitat loss and fragmentation caused by logging and forestry. A lack of scientific information and data on coastal gray wolves makes it difficult to develop sound management plans to ensure their conservation in the future.

What you can do

Photo credit:  Pastries71  via

Photo credit: Pastries71 via

1. Stay informed! Stay updated on current research and reports to ensure you understand the issues fully. Both Raincoast Conservation Foundation and Pacific Wild have accumulated a good database of fact-based, peer-reviewed research and reports.

2. Donate. Science and fact-based information helps to inform the public and decision-makers about what is really at stake and what needs to be done to ensure a future for these vital animals in our ecosystems. The Raincoast Conservation Foundation launched the Rainforest Wolf Project, which will conduct scientific research on gray wolves over 65,000 km 2 of central and northern B.C. coast to better understand their requirements, impacts, and action steps to ensure their protection. Click here to donate to their ongoing conservation efforts.

3. Send a message.  Write to your local government a letter stating your concerns on wolf conservation. Not sure what to write? Look here for a template.