Tag Archives: Conservation Officer Service

Origins of the Cortes Community Wolf Project

There was an increasing number of wolf sightings and encounters on Cortes Island during the closing months of 2008. A number of posts in the Tideline over the course of the next two years mention ‘an awful lot of them on the island, in an awfully short time.’ There were mixed reactions. A Squirrel Cove resident wrote that 15 ran through one of their neighbours yards at 4 AM. Someone had a ‘magical encounter’ with a large black wolf, standing on the foot bridge over the channel connecting Gunflint and Hague Lakes, as she paddled through with her canoe. Another resident reported that three wolves killed her dog, only 70 feet from her house.

More than 150 people gathered in the Linnaea School, on January 17, 2009, when Sabina Leader Mense brought in two experts to share their experiences with wolves.  Conservation Officer Ben York thanked the audience for bringing him in to discuss the situation, rather than put an animal down. He also stated that some of the wolves on Cortes ‘are very habituated’ and ‘˜there is a level of tolerance for these animals that is endangering them.’

The other expert was Bob Hansen, a wildlife/human conflict specialist in the Pacific Rim National Reserve.

Hansen was also one of the principle speakers at the recent Wildlife Coexistence Gathering on Cortes Island.  He explained that prior to receiving Sabina’s invitation, his attention was primarily focused on the Pacific Rim community.

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The First Wildlife Coexistence program on Vancouver Island

Around 40 people turned out for the Wildlife Coexistence Gathering on Cortes Island. This was an opportunity for Cortesians to meet some of the extended community of advisors  to the local program and learn more about our three top predators: grey wolf, black bear and cougar. The gathering was organized and hosted by Sabina Leader Mense and Georgina Silby from the Cortes Community Wolf Project. It began with a welcoming ceremony in the Klahoose All Purpose Building on Friday, April 5. There was an all day teaching series in the Linnaea Education Centre the following day. The gathering ended with a walk through the wildlife travel corridor in Hank’s Beach Forest Conservation Park on Sunday, April 7.  

Sabina Leader Mense emailed, “We celebrated our cultural relationships to our wild kin with the Klahoose First Nations singers & drummers and our guests Grace SoftDeer from the Chickasaw First Nation and Dennis Hetu from the Toquaht First Nation. We then explored our social and ecological relationships with our wild kin in formal and informal presentations by our invited guests, Bob Hansen, Pacific Rim Coordinator for WildSafeBC and Todd Windle, Coordinator for the Wild About Wolves Project.

Cortes Currents recorded most of the sessions at Linnaea and has arranged the material in a series of articles. This is an abridged version of the segment in which Bob Hansen talked about the origins of Vancouver Island’s first wildlife coexistence program. Years later it became the model for Cortes Island’s program, and Hansen was one of Sabina Leader Mense’s mentors.

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Wolf Tales from Cortes Island

Cortes Island’s wildlife coexistence programs can be traced back to  human/wolf conflicts in 2009. Local biologist Sabina Leader Mense reached out to Bob Hansen, then wildlife-human conflict specialist with Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.  The Cortes Community Wolf Project is modelled on the Wild Coast program that Hansen had been running in the Pacific Rim for more than a decade. Hansen and Conservation Officer Ben York helped Sabina write ‘Learning to Live with Wolves on Cortes Island,’ a five-point primer which FOCI endorses and posts throughout the community.

Hansen returned to Cortes at Sabina’s invitation, for the first time since 2011, on February 3. He gave a workshop on electric fences and a demonstration on using bear spray at Linnaea Farm. There were also a lot of ‘wolf stories’ and new information. 

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Conservation Officer Meets Cortes Island Residents

Conservation Officer Jillian Bjarnason came to Cortes on Saturday, January 13, 2024. 

“I was invited over to do some public outreach, mostly pertaining to human-wildlife conflict. There’s a population of wolves on the island  and sometimes there’s some encounters with people. I’m just really excited to be able to get to meet folks that live here, chat with them and provide education and how to co-exist,” she explained. 

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Recent sightings: Co-existing with wolves on Cortes Island

There’ve been reports of wolf sightings on Cortes island, which actually isn’t too surprising.

“We’re incredibly lucky to have wolves on Cortes. They’ve disappeared on a lot of the other islands. This is one of the last islands in the Salish Sea with wolves on it. Obviously we want to do everything we can to make sure that they can carry on living here, and that we can coexist alongside them,” explained Helen Hall, Executive Director of the Friends of Cortes Island (FOCI)

Continue reading Recent sightings: Co-existing with wolves on Cortes Island