Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wolf-dog Hybrid Killing Spree Ends on Salt Spring Island

     A long-time sheep producer on Salt Spring Island has reported that a wolf-dog killed 16 lambs on his farm over two evenings, before the animal was shot and identified around Feb 18th. The owner of the wolf-dog has not come forward. This was at the same time as a report of another wolf-dog killing pets and deer on Bowen Island. The animal was sighted and identified, and the Bowen Island Municipality has hired a professional trapper. Conservation officers do not deal with wolf-dogs, because they are not considered wildlife. Bowen Island does not allow the discharge of firearms, and although there have been several sightings this has made it difficult to make the killings stop. Bowen Municipality has recently posted a notice asking for the public's assistance in the location of the owner of the wolf-dog hybrid at large on the island. Because the animal has killed pets in front of people, and shows no fear of humans, the public are reminded that if they encounter the hybrid they should remain calm, back away slowly, don't run, and take refuge in a safe location. The public are also instructed that they “may wish to take further precautions by not letting small children or pets outdoors unattended”.Bowen Island Municipality Website - Wolf-Dog Notice to Public
      Just before the reported wolf-dog on Salt Spring I received an email from a sheep producer on one of the smaller islands. They reported a wolf had been on Moresby Island, just off of Pender Island where I live. It was seen and heard by the family that live there. It had been on Sidney Island, Gooch Island, then Moresby. As of Feb 11, the howling had stopped and they were alerting me that the wolf may be headed to Pender Island. I sent an email out to some sheep producers, but then heard of the killing of sheep on Salt Spring. There was the possibility of the same wolf doing the killing, but by the end of the week it ended up being identified as a wolf-dog on Salt Spring. I don't know if the dog that recently killed sheep on Pender over several weeks was also a wolf-dog, or what became of the reported Moresby Island wolf.
The last time a real wolf had terrorized an island, killing pets and livestock, it was a few years ago on Saturna Island. For several weeks this went on, before the wolf was spotted and killed on Samuel Island. It was identified as a Vancouver Island wolf.
      It is rare to have a wolf arrive on a relatively predator free island and set up shop, so to speak. The plentiful deer are very attractive to them, but their brazen lifestyle make them a target for man. Or is it rare? Years ago, Vancouver Island had many wolves. From the 1920's to 1950 the wolves were almost completely eradicated, even considered by some to be locally extinct. From 1950-1970 wolf sightings were very rare and deer populations increased. After 1970 numbers increased again, but this time the wolves were predominantly from the mainland, leap-frogging through the network of islands to the north end of Vancouver Island. From there they migrated toward the south end. Wolves were sighted swimming to the smaller islands. In the 1980's, wolves overran Vancouver Island and several attacks resulted in a provincial plan to significantly reduce wolf numbers, primarily to increase deer numbers for hunters.
Recent genetic evidence has verified this migration pattern, and has also shown that a small amount of dog genes are in some wolves sampled on Vancouver Island.. Not a lot, but enough to indicate either natural mating, or reintroduction of wolf-dogs that have been specifically bred by man.
At any rate, the popular trend of owning a wolf-dog as a pet has increased.youtube video of wolf dog on salt spring jan 31st Pups are available for sale by breeders, and for those who are too hard to handle, there are wolf-dog sanctuaries and some of these will offer wolf-dogs for adoption or “rescue”. The SPCA will not put wolf-dog hybrids up for adoption and if such animals are surrendered to SPCA shelters they will be euthanized. In a position statement, the SPCA are opposed to keeping, breeding, and importing of wolf-dog hybrids. According to the SPCA, “the animals are difficult to train or contain, and they show a high incidence of both predatory and idiopathic aggression towards other animals and humans. Any wolf-dogs already kept as pets should be muzzled, spayed or neutered, contained within secure runs, and vaccinated.”
    In December, a Kamloops judge found the owners of a wolf-dog hybrid liable for damages after it attacked a woman. The judge ruled that wild traits of the wolf-dog override, and they are not harmless by nature but are animals of wild nature. It is not known if the wolf-dog attacks on the islands are from at-large pets, or from wolf-dogs dropped off onto the islands because they are too hard to handle, and their owners thought they could “fend for themselves”.

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