A Rare Sight: British Columbia’s Coastal Wolves

Whether your visit to Sointula Lodge is focused on spotting some of the region’s unique wildlife or you’re watching the shorelines on the way to your next fishing spot, it’s important to always keep your eyes open. There are a number of unique mammals, birds, and other land-based creatures that you could just get lucky to spot.

One of the rarest is the coastal wolf.

Grizzly bears, black bears, stellar sea lions, and even bald eagles are a few species that aren’t uncommon to see resting along a rocky, tree-covered shoreline. But the elusive coastal wolf is rare, both because of its dwindling numbers and shy nature.

What are Coastal Wolves?

Known as coastal wolves, these animals are actually a type of grey wolf. The grey wolf is the most common species of wolf and is found in countries around the world, including Canada and the United States. More specifically, they are common to all parts of the Northern Hemisphere.

Also known as timber wolves, the grey wolf is the largest member of the dog or Canid family. They can grow to between 4 and 6 feet long and weigh between 40 and 175 pounds. Most grey wolves, as their name suggests, have thick gray fur, however, some may have black or even pure white fur, depending on the region they call home.

Grey wolves, like all wolf species, tend to live in remote wilderness areas, largely because they have been hunted out of more populated locations. While they do thrive in colder climates, grey wolves can also live in areas that see temperatures as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

What Makes Coastal Wolves Unique From Other Grey Wolves?

Coastal wolves are a genetically distinct population of grey wolves. This population is found only in British Columbia, and more specifically, only in the Coast Mountain Range. This area is a remote temperate rainforest that includes a number of islands and archipelagos along the coast. 

Because of the region’s geography, the population of grey wolves that live here has developed unique characteristics that are different from their cousins in other regions or parts of the world. Perhaps the most notable is that they are excellent swimmers.

In order to hunt for food across the many smaller islands in British Columbia, these wolves adapted the ability to strong, even in deep, cold waters with strong currents. They have been known to swim several miles between different islands, searching for food or catching salmon in the waters of British Columbia.

While they share all of the same other characteristics and physical features of grey wolves found elsewhere in the world, the strong swimming ability sets them apart in a big way. For one thing, it has changed their diet, as they eat more fish than other grey wolves. Eventually, it may also lead to evolutionary changes to their fur or even their anatomy, as descendants hone their swimming skills. 

These wolves are so adept at swimming that the species is sometimes referred to as marine mammals, just like sea lions. Some experts now even refer to them as sea wolves!

Protecting the Coastal Wolf

British Columbia is home to many areas of remote wilderness, where human populations remain very low. This is likely a big reason why the coastal wolf and other species that are rare in Canada and elsewhere in North America thrive here.

Wolves have lived in the region for thousands of years. They co-exited with the coastal First Nation tribes, who considered the wolf to be a revered animal and treated it with the utmost respect.

However, today British Columbia’s wolf population, along with other populations around the world, are being threatened. Logging in remote areas and the spread of cities has caused their habitats to shrink in size. Hunting, especially for sport, has also affected their population. Other threats, such as oil spills, take a toll on all animal populations within an affected region, and the wolf is no exception.

Efforts are underway to protect the coastal wolf population. Visiting the region and enjoying one of our Wilderness Tours is a great way to learn more about these and other unique species that call the area home. Our tours are a wonderful way to see animals on land and in the water from a safe distance for both you and for them!

If you’re ready to see if you’ll be one of the lucky few to spot a unique and beautiful coastal wolf, book your 2021 Wilderness Tour at Sointula Lodge today!