Recent sightings of wolves in the Kelowna area highlight the need to prevent human-wildlife conflict

Wolves in our backyard

Cindy White

Are wolves moving into populated areas, or are people encroaching more on the animals’ territory?

Castanet has received reports in recent months of sightings of the predators in the Central Okanagan.

Kane Blake of the Okanagan Forest Task Force posted a video and photos of pawprints after wolves visited his property in Lake Country in late November.

Over the weekend, Mike Walchuck came across a pack of six while hiking in Black Mountain Park.

“I was pretty shocked to see them that close to Kelowna because, yeah, I didn’t think that they — essentially they were just outside the city limits,” said Walchuck.

That story prompted another man to share a video and photos he took on January 19 of either wolves or coyotes dragging a deer carcass across a fairway at Black Mountain Golf Club.

“I’ve just been sitting on the photos and then I saw all these things about wolves up around my area. So, it got me thinking more,” said Jordan.

Kathy Murray with WildSafeBC says more people are choosing to live, work, play and grow food in wildlife habitats.

“Naturally, this will increase the potential for more human-wildlife conflict with wildlife and, on occasion, wolves,” she points out.

Coyotes are a much more common sight in the Okanagan. So, how do you tell the difference between the two species?

“Firstly, wolves are larger than coyotes and they have broad paws. (They have) a broader snout and rounded ear tips. And when they run, they tend to carry their tails up behind them,” says Murray.

Coyotes have a thick, bushy, black-tipped tail that they carry downwards when running.

Wolves are most dangerous if you get too close to their food.

“If you encounter a wolf on a kill, they may become defensive or territorial,” explains Murray. “So, you want to slowly back out of the area without running or turning your back.”

Of course, she also suggests carrying bear spray when you’re hiking or doing any other activity where you might run into wildlife.

There are an estimated 8,500 wolves in BC. If you were wondering about the black wolf that was among the group seen on Black Mountain, the colour is the result of interbreeding with dogs over 45,000 years ago.

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