Normally, when we think of wolves, we imagine them in forests or running across frozen tundras, being one of the apex predators over the rugged terrain. We also think of them as living predominantly off of rabbits, deer, and elk, or even ganging up on injured bears. What doesn’t usually come to mind is the robust carnivores living off of seafood or frolicking in icy cold waters for hours on end in pursuit of the catch of the day. That, however, is exactly how British Columbia’s rare sea wolves survive.
Often referred to as coastal wolves, these amazing animals are different from their more populous cousins in that respect. Dwelling along the ocean’s edge and living on small, uninhabited islands, as much as 90 percent of their daily food intake actually comes directly from the deep blue sea, with 25 percent of it made up of salmon. Researchers in the Pacific Northwest believe that many of them may go their entire lives without ever laying eyes on an animal with hoofs, which makes up a significant portion of their larger cousins’ nutritional intake.
A wolf subspecies found in the Vancouver coastal islands, sea wolves are smaller in stature than other wolf species and devote most of their time island hopping in search of their next meal. There’s a lot of athleticism involved in swimming to these remote outer islands, so it needs to pay off with plenty of high protein and fat sources. Unfortunately, their numbers are relatively small in comparison to other wolves, but it’s the size of their population that makes them so interesting to researchers and photographers who study them.
Rare Yet Majestic Mammals
Chris Darimont, science director at the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, has been studying coastal wolves for more than two decades now. In the past, he’s shared some fascinating facts regarding this unique population of wolves. There are two distinct populations of them to begin with. They include island and coastal wolves, with the coastal group subsiding on a slightly less-exclusive menu of seafood. Both populations enjoy dining on seals, however.
In addition to being strong swimmers, capable of covering more than seven miles of open water at a pop, their diets are believed to be responsible for their smaller stature. For sea wolves, researchers studying the coastal variety calculate them to be roughly 20 percent larger than the island-dwelling carnivores. For perspective, you might liken the island wolves to German shepherds and the coastal wolves to Great Pyrenees. The coloring of coastal wolves also varies slightly, with more of a reddish-brown hue to their coats.
Sea Wolves of the Past
In the past, sea wolves were seen as far north as Alaska and found all the way down into California’s once temperate rain forests. No longer the case, they currently exist just north of Vancouver on up into Southeastern Alaska. A rarity to view, with proper conservation efforts, the hope is that their numbers will not decline any further.Whizzco