I’m not 'nuts,' says dog expert taking pets to live with wild wolves
A Port McNeill dog expert wants to show off the gentler side of Vancouver Island’s wolf population armed with just a camera – and his own pet pooches.
Ken Griffiths is an animal behaviourist who, along with his three dogs, Jack, Malina and Jake, will be spending the next two months cohabitating with wolves on the remote northern tip of the island.
His goal: To show people that encounters with the wild animals can be peaceful, and not dangerous like most might believe.
“What I want to is create awareness videos so people can see how they need to act and how their dogs need to act when they come into contact with wolves,” Griffiths said Monday.
But Griffiths said he’ll maintain a respectful distance from the wolves by first living inside a fenced compound.
Over time, he will allow the wolves inside the structure to interact with his dogs.
“I will never feed them, I can’t touch them, I can’t pet them, I can’t do anything, so it’s not a negative interaction. It’s just an interaction,” he said.
Not everyone agrees with his experiment, though.
Griffiths said many have called him “nuts” for putting himself and his pets in possible harm’s way, “but normal’s boring, you know?”
One of those questioning the plan is University of Victoria conservation scientist Dr. Chris Darimont, who said while he appreciates Griffiths’ intentions, there’s a high risk his dogs will be attacked.
“Wolves perceive dogs as other wolves intruding on their territory, even if the dogs look nothing like wolves. The dogs are frequently attacked and often killed, even when accompanied by their human companions,” Darimont said. “While doing things a little different can sometimes bring exceptional results, this plan ignores the reality that his dogs will be at great risk.”
But Griffiths is brushing criticism of his plan aside, pointing to the rarity of wolf-on-dog attacks as proof that wild wolves don’t target their domesticated counterparts.
“They’re well-balanced animals, they’re not these vicious killers like Red Riding Hood puts them out to be,” he said. “I think that’s all done for hunters and people who want to get rid of them.”
He said a high-profile wolf attack on a dog two years ago in Ahousaht First Nation territory was done by a wolf hybrid, not a wild wolf.
In that incident, a wolf went right up to a doorstep and snatched a family pet, dragging it off into the woods.
A similar attack occurred last year, when wolves snatched a dog off a Tofino-area beach and mauled another right in front of its horrified owners.
“I know my dogs are going to be safe, I know my dogs aren’t going to attack the wolves. It’s all going to be done in a peaceful nature on the wolves’ terms,” he said.
He said during the two-month experiment near Cape Scott, he will use game and go-pro cameras to capture interactions with the wolves, which he’ll post to his YouTube and Facebook pages once it’s completed.
He’s currently running a GoFundMe campaign to support the venture, which has collected $290 of a $6,500 goal so far.