The recent shooting of three wolves near Duck Lake is a warning for residents to take care while on the trails of the popular network east of Powell River, but a local trail builder said he is more concerned with hunters than their targets.
Wayne Brewer, a member of the Chain Gang, a local group that develops and maintains mountain bike trails in and around Duck Lake, said it is not the wildlife that worries him.
“You go into the bush, you take your chances, but now I’m more concerned about someone shooting into the bush while I’m there,” he said.
While parts of Duck Lake are open for legal hunting, there is also a BC Parks protected area where no hunting or shooting is permitted from June 16 to September 9 each year. The problem is no one, except BC Parks, really knows where those boundaries are, according to Pat Walsh, president of Powell River Outdoor Recreation Users Group Trail Society.
Walsh said signage is in the works that will be posted around the boundaries and at trailheads outlining area rules.
He agreed the current situation puts recreation users at risk. “It’s dangerous,” said Walsh. “People are running, hiking and biking along those trails unseen to people shooting.”
BC Ministry of Environment conservation officer Andrew Anaka confirmed three wolves have been killed by hunters this winter in and around Duck Lake.
“A few were killed up there, that might be slightly unusual, not a lot of wolves get killed around here,” said Anaka.
Two of those kills were confirmed to be legal and the other, which Anaka investigated, likely was, he said. The third wolf’s remains were found along the trail near the water intake from Haslam Lake.
Brewer said he had an experience near Haslam Lake while biking the Cream Soda trail when he heard bullets hitting the foliage above his head. Brewer shot off a bear banger to alert the shooter.
“It’s people like that who scare me,” he said. “If [the shooter] had looked at a trail map and realized there were trails everywhere, they probably would have gone elsewhere.”
On Sunday, March 20, a man reported he and his dog were on Sweetwater Creek trail headed back towards his truck when a lone wolf sprung from the underbrush and ambushed his dog, a Boston terrier. The dog’s collar and jacket saved it from being killed during the attack, he stated.
The incident shook the man enough to report it to BC Conservation Officer Service’s wildlife encounter line and post a warning to social media.
While biologists are unable to confirm the exact number of coastal wolves living in the woods around Powell River, it is thought there could be as many a 1,000 in the Great Bear Rainforest, with its southern border just north of Desolation Sound.
Over the years there have been a number of reports of dogs and livestock falling prey, particularly in residential areas that border the wilder regions of the Upper Sunshine Coast.
No special permits are required, only a hunting licence, to kill three wolves per year per person, said Anaka. Hunters are not required to transport the animal carcass home with them, he said.
Anaka said the lone wolf involved in the Sweetwater incident may have been left on its own after the other members of its pack were killed.
Anaka said he knows the hunter who recently shot two wolves and spoke to him about the hunt.
“There isn’t anything unusual about him killing [three] wolves in a year,” he said.
Besides the Sweetwater encounter, Anaka said he has not had any other recent reports of sightings, or witnessed anything that would make him think anything unusual is going on with the resident wolf population.
Meanwhile, Brewer said it is common to find broken bottles from unauthorized shooting ranges at the end of logging road spurs in the area.
“It’s the way you behave as a hunter, not the fact that you are a hunter,” he said. “It’s just like any group. Some ATVers give ATVers a bad name, some mountain bikers give mountain bikers a bad name. Hunters are no different.”
Brewer said he owns a rifle and hunts with friends from time to time, but he said he is worried a few irresponsible people are tarnishing the group’s reputation as a whole and the presence of wolves in the area is less worrisome than errant bullets.
“I don’t think people should be getting worked up about being afraid of wolves,” he said. “I’ve only seen one in 25 to 30 years I’ve been up here.”