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Wolf sightings on the rise in urban Prince Rupert

Wearing a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, Barrie Girbov opened the front door of his house early Monday in the pouring rain and started barking like a dog.

Nearly 12 metres down his Prince Rupert driveway, a lone wolf was standing in the middle of the road making a commotion trying to open a latch on one of Mr. Girbov's garbage cans.

The startled animal heard the man barking and ran off into the night, leaving the trash behind.

"I made noises because I just wanted to get the wolf away from the house," Mr. Girbov said. "We see them all time, but they never come up to the doorstep and start going through the garbage."

Prince Rupert residents have sighted more wolves in their neighbourhoods this month than ever before, a conservation officer said.

A wolf destroyed on Tuesday after it preyed on a few small domestic animals in the city's Cow Bay area for several weeks was the second put down in Prince Rupert since May.

Residents have reported 57 wolf sightings in the city this month to conservation officials, more than five times the number reported in June.

The Girbov family had three visits last Monday, during a seven-hour period, from what they believe was the same wolf scavenging for food.

"After I spooked the wolf away, I walked to the road and took the closed container to a small space under the steps to the house, along with another garbage can I brought from the backyard," Mr. Girbov said.

"There were leftover chicken bones in the can the wolf came for. Almost 10 minutes after it had left, the wolf sauntered up my driveway and tried to get into the containers again."

He said he saw the animal approach the house a second time and again scared it away by making more noises from an open bathroom window on the second floor.

"It's not normal for wolves to start chewing garbage cans," Mr. Girbov said.

"But we were woken up again in the morning to a clanging noise and looked out the window to see the wolf chewing away at a can in the driveway. This time my wife Joan came with me in her pyjamas to the doorway and we made noises and scared it away."

At least two healthy wolves are prowling for food in Prince Rupert neighbourhoods, local conservation officials said yesterday.

"There's lots of wolves around Prince Rupert that occasionally come to town and some stay," conservation officer Martin Melderif said.

"It very easy for them to make a living here because there are plenty of natural water sources, a healthy deer population with no hunting season, and lots of stray cats and dogs. That's everything a wolf needs."

He also emphasized that wolves rarely attack humans.

"I can recall two incidents in British Columbia where wolves attacked humans, and in both cases the wolves were conditioned and being provided with food by humans," Mr. Melderif said.

He said killing wolves is regrettable and not easily undertaken by conservation officials.

"The public should understand that we don't use poison to remove wolves from the community . . . and wolf traps endanger children and pets. So we use predator calls to lure them and shoot them with rifles, which is also dangerous in urban communities."

During the past month residents have been urged by city officials and conservation officers to keep their garbage covered and their small pets on a leash to prevent the domestication of more wolves in the region, Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond said yesterday.

City officials estimate 13,500 people live in Prince Rupert.

There are 7,000 to 10,000 wolves in British Columbia, a Ministry of Environment official said yesterday.




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM  Pacific

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