Lighting up the dark…

2020 turned into a weird blip in the 21st cen­tury, where life as we know it, took an ab­rupt and life-chan­ging shift. For many, it has been marked by fear, bore­dom and frustration.

And now it’s the shortest, darkest day of the year. Winter Solstice, the of­fi­cial be­gin­ning of winter. What could be more bleak than that?

But when I look out­side, I can’t help but smile. My neigh­bor­hood and many oth­ers are ablaze with col­our­ful lights and dis­plays. The hol­i­day sparkle began  early this year. I be­lieve it’s hu­man­kinds way of light­ing up the dark in the midst of a glob­al pandemic.

Reflecting on my per­son­al life dur­ing the Time of Covid, I also see some light. One of my most re­ward­ing ex­per­i­ences was a Covid-safe writ­ing re­treat at Cluxewe Resort on Northern Vancouver Island.

Welcome sign and my cab­in at Cluxewe Resort

My cab­in provided a view across Queen Charlotte Strait to the BC main­land, a stun­ning es­tu­ary a short dis­tance to the rear and, per­haps most im­port­ant of all, time.

I op­ted to not hook up to Wi-Fi or turn on the big screen TV so my sound­scape con­sisted of eagles call­ing, pound­ing surf dur­ing a big storm and rain­drops beat­ing a stac­cato rhythm on the met­al roof.

Nature was my only dis­trac­tion and with it came a feel­ing of space, as if the vast­ness out­side had seeped into my mind, provid­ing room to pon­der the book I’m work­ing on and what dir­ec­tion it will take me. The oas­is of that little cab­in and the time and space it provided were pre­cious gifts in a year of un­cer­tainty and upheaval.

Cluxewe River estuary

And, al­though there is still an abund­ance of dark­ness in each 24-hour stretch, light is on the way. The Winter Solstice means minutes of light will be ad­ded to each day and, even bet­ter, Covid-19 vac­cines are on the way.

As 2020 comes to a close, I hope every­one can find some time to think about what lights up their life (even dur­ing Covid) and take at least one small step to make that happen.

Top im­age by Dzenina Lukac


What does a wolf do when it finds it­self in the middle of an urb­an area? Maybe day­light is seep­ing into the sky and people are stir­ring. The wolf’s in­stinct is to find a se­cluded, safe place. So, he plunges into cold ocean wa­ters and swims a couple of kilo­metres through chal­len­ging cur­rents to a small, rocky archipelago.

The wolf prob­ably doesn’t real­ize this will be his home for the next eight years. A col­lec­tion of is­lands with no deer to hunt, no year-round source of wa­ter and no oth­er wolves.

He can see densely pop­u­lated Oak Bay on south­ern Vancouver Island and hear dogs bark­ing there. Sometimes he howls in re­turn. He watches freight­ers and kayakers go by and learns to hunt seals, steal goose eggs and dig for wa­ter to survive.

But most of all, he learns to live alone. This is very un­usu­al as wolves are highly so­cial an­im­als who live in fam­ily groups. No one thought the wolf would stay but, wheth­er by cir­cum­stance or choice, he did. And thrived.

Takaya Lone Wolf is a story about a wolf and a wo­man. The first time Cheryl Alexander heard the wolf howl, she was hooked. The award-win­ning con­ser­va­tion pho­to­graph­er lived a short boat ride away and began watch­ing the wolf she named Takaya. Personal ob­ser­va­tions and pho­to­graphs were aug­men­ted by video foot­age and trail cam­er­as. Before she knew it, she was doc­u­ment­ing the life of a lone wolf.

Alexander’s new book provides an in­tim­ate glimpse into Takaya’s day-to-day life, as well as the vast beauty and rich­ness of his do­main and the wild­life that share it.  The pho­to­grapher­’s per­sist­ence and pa­tience also re­veals some wolf be­ha­viour that has per­haps nev­er been doc­u­mented before.

Takaya Lone Wolf is a beau­ti­ful blend of stun­ning pho­to­graphs with heart­felt words. Alexander in­vites the read­er into a wild­ness that, sur­pris­ingly, can ex­ist close to the cap­it­al of British Columbia in Canada. It also raises ques­tions about how hu­mans re­late to wolves. The book is sched­uled for a September 29 release.

Last year, Takaya and Alexander’s story ap­peared on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s The Nature of Things, as well as BBC TV in the UK and ARTE tele­vi­sion in France and Germany.

For more in­form­a­tion vis­it the Facebook page TAKAYA: @takayalonewolf.



When wolves lose their fear of humans

It was 11:00 p.m. and Stanley Russ was only a few steps from Grant and Miranda Moore’s house when a wolf bolted out of the bushes and at­tacked him. Hearing his screams, the Moores raced out­side. The ruck­ous also aler­ted the couple next door, Russ’ son Frank and his wife, Sylvia, to the emergency.

Frank got between the wolf and his dad, while the oth­ers provided first aid. Despite Frank yelling and throw­ing whatever he could find, the wolf re­peatedly at­temp­ted to get to Russ. A neigh­bour set off her car alarm and the wolf dis­ap­peared only to re­appear an hour later.

The sev­enty-two year old Port Edward, BC res­id­ent suffered severe bites to one arm and both legs. He re­ceived emer­gency sur­gery at the Prince Rupert Hospital and was later flown to Vancouver General Hospital for fur­ther treatment.

Russ sur­vived the at­tack, the wolf was killed and, after an in­tens­ive in­vest­ig­a­tion, Conservation Officer Service (COS) deemed the May 29, 2020 at­tack predatory.

Attacks by healthy wolves are ex­tremely rare and usu­ally oc­cur when wolves be­come ha­bitu­ated to hu­mans and are food con­di­tioned. the Port Edward in­cid­ent was a clas­sic case.

A large pop­u­la­tion of fer­al cats in Port Edward and Prince Rupert res­ul­ted in wolves fre­quent­ing both com­munit­ies. The in­vest­ig­a­tion into the at­tack also re­vealed a net­work of trails between Port Edward and a nearby land­fill where wolves ate garbage on a reg­u­lar basis.

As well as sources of food, wolves are also at­trac­ted to hu­man be­long­ings and have been known to keep and play with items for up to a year. COS ob­served a well chewed shoe at the dump that was reg­u­larly moved from one spot to another.

Most people do not real­ize how easy it is for wolves to be­come com­fort­able around people. If wolves re­ceive re­wards such as garbage, food or hu­man be­long­ings, they will be­gin to seek out places where people are rather than avoid them.

In many areas, wolf pop­u­la­tions are in­creas­ing and some wolves are mov­ing through or even oc­cupy­ing space close to hu­mans. It’s up to com­munit­ies and in­di­vidu­als to make sure there are no at­tract­ants to arouse their interest.

Photo cour­tesy Avishag Ayalon



A wolf’s ears

Their ears are like radar. They can smell a man from three to four kilo­metres away. And their eyes… they can see through everything,” Ion Maxisimovic says in Wolf Hunter, a doc­u­ment­ary film by James Morgan.

Wolves are built to move and that in­cludes an aero­dy­nam­ic head fea­tur­ing a sleek muzzle lead­ing to tri­an­gu­lar-shaped ears that are gently roun­ded on top. Each ear can be in­de­pend­ently ro­tated cre­at­ing op­tim­al an­ten­nae for pick­ing up sounds.

According to Wolf Watch UK, do­mest­ic dogs can hear up to six­teen times bet­ter than hu­mans. Experts say a wolf’s hear­ing is even more acute and that they can hear noises ten to six­teen kilo­metres (six to ten miles) away on open ground. It’s also sus­pec­ted that wolves can hear fre­quen­cies as high as 80 kHz com­pared to a human’s up­per range of 20 kHz.

Wolf pups open their eyes when they’re around two weeks old and be­gin to hear sounds after three weeks.  Ears play an im­port­ant role in wolf body lan­guage and com­mu­nic­a­tion. Wolves cock their ears to in­dic­ate alert­ness, ag­gres­sion, play­ful­ness or sub­mis­sion.  And, along with eyes, ears, mouth, hackles, tail and pos­ture, ears con­vey mood, status, sexu­al in­terest and intent.

Dogs evolved from wolves and, over the cen­tur­ies, have been bred to ful­fill the de­sires of hu­mans, wheth­er that be as com­pan­ion, work an­im­al or simply the trendy fash­ion ac­cess­ory of the day.

These red wolf pups are only a few days old and are not yet able to see or hear. Their ears are still soft and floppy.
Photo by Ryan Nordsven, US Fish and Wildlife Services.

Studies show that a large pro­por­tion of people are at­trac­ted to dogs with floppy ears and short­er, roun­ded muzzles. These are ju­ven­ile char­ac­ter­ist­ics that all dog and wolf pup­pies have. As wolf pups grow, how­ever, their ears stand up­right and their snouts lengthen, where­as many dogs’ do not.



The top photo shows an adult red wolf wait­ing to be trans­por­ted to a site for re­lease into the wild. It’s well be­yond the puppy stage and its ears are erect. The po­s­i­tion of the ears, the eyes and the gen­er­al pos­ture of the wolf shows that it is stressed. Photo by B. Bartel, US Fish and Wildlife Services