Saturday, February 5, 2011

PSA - Predator Patrol

Time for a Public Service Announcement, for the safety of your pets and local wildlife. There has been a lot of wolf activity on the beaches and trails between Tofino and Ucluelet. If you love your dog, keep it on a leash. Here's more info. from the National Park:

Since Christmas time there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of wolf activity in the Long Beach Unit and area. There is currently a pack of six wolves hunting the area. Two of the pack have been present for over a year. The other four seem to have joined up with these two around Christmas. In the past week we have evidence of their activity from Fletcher's beach area south of the park to Schooner Cove in the NW and inland to Grice Bay and the airport. There have not been any encounters of concern in the park.

How do we know this information?

Our wolf monitoring efforts have focused on hiking our local beaches and trails frequently, the recording of wolf reports and the use of wildlife cameras.

Sightings are still relatively infrequent but tracks, scats and wildlife camera pics tell a different story.

During the monitoring surveys in the park and elsewhere I've noted fresh sign of people running their dogs on every beach I've checked .

People/dog activity seems to be occurring mostly early in the morning and in the evenings after people get off work.

Some risk factors:

-Highest level of wolf activity we've documented in over 10 years

-We are into mating season for wolves

-Mating season means territorial aggression between wolf packs and towards dogs

-Night, dawn and dusk are higher risk periods

-There is a diversity of food on the beaches - small prey, deer, marine mammal carcasses, etc.

-Beaches and dune areas are easy travel corridors and they can scent prey from long distances as the air currents flow through those open areas

human activity is relatively low

What's at stake:

-Having one dog taken does not mean a trend but one dog could start a trend - in the late 90s we saw this happen - 1 dog incident in January 1998 turned into 16 dog attacks over a year and a half preventing even 1 dog being taken is the best way to reduce this risk .

-In the 90s an escalating trend of conflict saw many dogs attacked, the feeding of unafraid wolves, 1 person mauled and many wolves shot

Here is how you can keep your pets, yourself and wolves safe:

-Keep dogs on leash at all times when out for a walk - attacks of dogs in this area have always been on dogs running at large

-Bring dogs and cats in at night

-If you are going surfing, leave your dog at home unless it's OK to stay inside your vehicle - tying a dog up on the beach or letting it run free is putting temptation in the path of a travelling wolf pack

-Even the toughest dog is no match for a pack of wolves

-If you are a regular beach/trail walker, invest in a small pocket airhorn and/or pepper spray

-If you carry pepper spray, know how to use it safely - practice using it

-If wolves are encountered take aggressive action to scare them away immediately - encouraging wolves to be wary of people is best for them and us - helps prevent conflict

-If you don't have a dog with you and you encounter a wolf or wolves, it most likely will not be acting aggressively - the risk to people is very low unless it has been fed by people - it is essential though that wolves be sent a clear message at every opportunity that it is not OK to approach people - complacency around people increases the risk to the wolves themselves

-Secure garbage, pet food, chickens and other attractants so they aren't easily accessible

-I realize all this advice may heighten your anxiety in going to your favourite places but I'd rather send this message out now and have conflict averted rather than being in the position of reacting to it. We're taking advantage of lessons learned in the past in this area. I know that many of you already follow these precautions routinely as part of living in wolf country.

In summary:

-If wolves are kept wild and wary and don't associate people with food rewards, the risk to human safety is very low

-Realize that dogs, cats, pet food, livestock and garbage are wolf attractants - take precautions

-Dogs in particular are targets for territorial wolves

-Keep your distance from carnivores like wolves - scare them away for your sake and theirs - teach them to keep their distance

-The more space between you and them the safer it is - space is safe

Thanks all for helping spread the word. Give a shout if you have any questions.

For any wolf reports outside the park contact: the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277 and Bob Hansen at 250-726-7165 ext 227

For any wolf reports inside the park, please contact Bob Hansen at: 250-726-7165 ext 227

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