Tracking a Grey Wolf

Of the three top predators in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve I have regularly seen Black Bears but have yet to have seen a Cougar (in the park) or a Grey Wolf. 

Maybe this is a good thing… 

Tracks in the Sand at Florencia Bay

Sometimes seeing the sign that one of these predators has passed through is enough. Early this week I was the first person on the beach at Florencia Bay. Ahead of me stretched a clean slate of sand, not a mark on it aside from the ripples made by wind and wave. I walked along, enjoying the quiet and sharing the beach with a flock of California Gulls while making note of things brought in by the tide. 

About two kilometres down the beach I headed up from the water’s edge to the strandline, or high tide mark, intending to look for plants among the driftwood and dunes at the top of the beach. It was then that I notced the tracks, a perfect line travelling south on the beach on the fresh smooth sand just below the high water mark.

Line of Grey Wolf Tracks
Line of Grey Wolf (Canis lupus) tracks at Florencia Bay in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

Dog or Wolf?

The size of the tracks, their freshness, and the lack of any human footprints (or any people on the beach this early in the morning) accompanying them seemed to rule out a dog as the track maker. The fact that the line of tracks was so perfectly straight and that the smaller hind print registered just ahead and to the side of the fore print instead suggested Grey Wolf. In comparison, dog tracks tend to be more haphazard and wandering. 

Grey Wolf Tracks
Close-up detail of Grey Wolf (Canis lupus) tracks – note the smaller hind foot in front of and to the right of the larger fore foot.

Wolves regularly use Florencia Bay and often visit the carcasses of dead seals and sealions that occassionally end up on the beach. Later I found the remains of a dead seal nearby (investigated by the animal making the tracks) and I knew that further down the beach closer to the north end a dead sealion had turned up a couple of weeks ago. 

While I would have liked to have seen the track maker I was content to know that it had been here before me. Sometimes that is all that is needed.