Kelowna man photographs rare encounter with pack of wolves

A man’s casual stroll at a regional park in BC led to the encounter of a lifetime.

Mike Walchuck of Kelowna, BC, was out for a late morning walk on January 21 at Black Mountain – sntsk’il’ntən Regional Park when he encountered a pack of wolves.

“First thought was like, ‘Is that a big wolf? “” said Walchuck.

“But when I looked closer I didn’t believe it, it definitely looked bigger than a coyote… and then I saw the black one appear.”

About half way through the eight-kilometer walk, Walchuk came to an open field with fewer trees, where he glimpsed the animals for the first time.

The park is located in the eastern suburbs of Kelowna, bordering a golf course, with residential areas a few kilometers away. It is very rare to spot a wolf in the area.

‘I’ve never seen a wolf before’

Walchuck has repeatedly hiked in this area and explored several other parks in the Okanagan. He and his wife moved to the area in 2020 to be closer to nature.

He describes himself as a wildlife aficionado who enjoys the outdoors and it’s not uncommon for him to see wildlife while out for a walk.

“I’ve seen wolves, deer and elk, but I’ve never seen a wolf before.”

A black wolf stands on a snowy slope and stares at the camera.
Mike Walchuck, who describes himself as a wildlife enthusiast who enjoys the outdoors, says it’s not uncommon for him to see wildlife on a walk. However, he had never seen a wolf before. (Mike Walchuck)

Walchuck said they were about 150 meters away when he first spotted them. He’s not sure how many wolves there are in the area, but he’s seen four.

He believes there are more possibilities.

The professor said it was rare to see wolves in the area

Adam Ford, a professor of biology at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, said Walchuck was lucky to have been so close to these elusive carnivores.

He says wolves have evolved to be quite sneaky with humans and tend to be more active at night.

Ford adds that the animals have large territories and will traverse areas like the Okanagan while chasing prey like elk or deer.

“It’s hard to tell if that area in the Black Mountain is at the edge of their range and they only come occasionally,” he said.

Ford says the Central Okanagan animals can hang around if food is available, but they can travel as far as Sicamous – about 125 kilometers north of Kelowna – or to the US border if that’s where his prey is. they stay.

He added that it is unlikely that wolves in the Inland will become familiar with urban areas in the way that coyotes have.

“We don’t usually see wolves and humans in the same area,” he said. “But we’ve also seen cases in places like Banff National Park, where wolves were fed by irresponsible campers, leading to the extermination of those wolves as it became unsafe. for human beings.”

A wolf standing on a snowy slope
Adam Ford, a professor of biology at UBC Okanagan, says it is unlikely that wolves in the Inland will become as familiar with urban areas as coyotes have. (Mike Walchuck)

In 2019, a wolf attacked a man while he was sleeping in a tent with his family in Banff National Park.

Parks Canada tracked the wolf believed to be responsible for the attack to a site about a kilometer south of the campground and killed it.

The agency said it was the first incident of its kind to occur in a national park.

Avoid encounters with wild animals: WildsafeBC

WildsafeBC, a nonprofit that educates people about wildlife safety, says there are about 8,500 wolves in the province.

WildsafeBC coordinator Lisa Lopez said human-wolf interactions are extremely rare. But she says people should avoid possible encounters with wildlife, even if they want to photograph or observe animals.

“If they’re guarding a prey, if they’re hunting or protecting young… perhaps that area should be avoided,” she said.

Lopez adds, it’s important to keep a pet on a leash at all times because coyotes are territorial and may perceive pets as a threat or potential prey.


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