This wolf took a break from eating herring roe to investigate a half-submerged object: the photographer’s camera.
This wolf took a break from eating herring roe to investigate a half-submerged object: the photographer’s camera.

In Search of the Elusive Sea Wolf Along Canada’s Rugged Coast

At Canada’s western edge, beachcombing wolves swim between islands, eating whatever the sea serves up.

"You feeling lucky?” Ian McAllister calls.

We’re standing on a speck of an island, eight miles west of the British Columbia mainland. Wooded, windswept, it’s one of thousands of islands along this storm-scoured coast, naught but a series of seal-draped rocks between this one and Japan. The April wind whips away my bark of disbelief that luck would come my way, and besides, McAllister—environmental activist, photographer, wolf whisperer—has already made up his mind. He settles into the windrow of bleached driftwood at the high tide line, and so do I. Before us, a gravel tide bar some hundred yards long connects our little island to another. Ensconced in our bony nests, we scan the far island’s twisty green-gold Sitka spruce and cedar, the bladder wrack and eelgrass. And just like that, luck strikes.

A pale stick figure of a wolf steps out of the salals and picks its way down the bank to the beach opposite us. With its muzzle, it pokes at the eelgrass. It plants a paw on something, tears at it with its teeth—a dead salmon maybe. Then another wolf materializes alongside the first. The two touch muzzles, turn to the gravel bar, and begin to plod across its tide pools in our direction.

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