Sea wolves can be found along the Pacific coast in British Columbia. These Canadian creatures live in a region roughly the same size as the state of Maryland. The coast is their home, and they rule their kingdom.
While sea wolves are distinctly lupine, they are quite different from their canine counterparts. “We know from exhaustive DNA studies that these wolves are genetically distinct from their continental kin,” says Ian McAllister, a photographer who has been studying sea wolves for almost twenty years. “They are behaviourally distinct, swimming from island to island and preying on sea animals. They are also morphologically distinct — they are smaller in size and physically different from their mainland counterparts."
Sea wolves have a diet rich in nutrients from the sea. 90 percent of their meals are fished out of the Pacific Ocean. Additionally, the sea wolves are fond of salmon, with a quarter of their diet consisting of the pink fish. Herring roe, seals, barnacles and dead whales are also on the menu for the sea wolf.
The hunting habits of sea wolves are fascinating. While sea wolves to rely on sea lions and seals for a source of food, they cannot catch them in the water. In order to pray on the animals, sea wolves will swim out and catch them when they are resting on rocks.
Sea wolves fish mostly in the mouths of shallow creeks. Sea wolves will catch a salmon with their jaws, then uses their paws to pin it down and eat it. Sometimes sea wolves won't eat the entire salmon, but instead will just eat the brains of the fish.
There are two different types of sea wolves. Sea wolves are divided into the mainland coastal wolf and the coastal island wolf. The mainland coastal wolves are still found on the Pacific coast, however they eat less seafood than their island counterparts.
Baby sea wolves - which may or may not be the cutest things ever - don't hunt like their parents. Instead, grown sea wolves will bring them food until they are old enough to hunt for themselves. While the parents are out catching pray, the young sea wolves will be babysat by a relative. Adorable!
Sea wolves are smaller than other variety of wolves, and are roughly the size of a German Shepard. Their smaller stature is largely due to their diet. “Interior wolves are about 20 percent bigger, maybe like a [Great] Pyrenees,” says Chris Darimont, the science director at the Raincoast Conservation Foundation. Sea wolves normally have reddish-brown coloring.
Spotting a sea wolf is a rare occurrence, but their presence has been described as almost otherworldly. "There is something about being in the presence of a coastal wolf—they just have this magic and aura around them," says British filmmaker Bertie Gregory. The filmmaker was lucky enough to have spotted the creatures in 2011.
Darimont began researching the wolves in the early 2000s, after photographer Ian McAllister and wolf biologist Paul Paquet called him in to help study the creatures. The scientists eschewed more traditional forms of studying animal samples - like collecting hair and blood from the beasts - and opted to study their poop instead “Wolves are deliberate poopers, not random like deer,” Darimont says, “and they use travel corridors very reliably.” While it seems sh**ty, the fecal samples gave the men deep insights into the animals.
Most importantly, the scientists learned that sea wolves, "aren’t an anomaly, they’re a remnant." Sea wolves were able to remain in the wilds of British Columbia due to the region's low human population. However, an energy project called the Northern Gateway Pipelines could encroach upon their territory, threatening their existence.