Takaya, lone wolf of Discovery Island, killed by hunter: conservation service

The lone wolf that once made his solitary life on Discovery Island before being tranquillized and transported elsewhere has been shot dead by a Vancouver Island hunter, setting off worldwide waves of grief.

A statement from the B.C. Conservation Officer Service confirmed the animal’s shooting near Shawnigan Lake on Tuesday, about 50 kilometres from where it was released after transport.

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“We understand many British Columbians and people around the world shared care and concern for the well-being of this wolf and this update will affect many people,” said the statement. An investigation is underway.

The adult male wolf, named Takaya by researchers and fans, had lived alone on Discovery Island for at least seven years and was known to swim to other nearby islands.

His solitary life was unusual for a pack animal and in 2019 a CBC documentary about the animal warmed Canadians. After it was shown in the U.K., Takaya gained a worldwide following as the lone wolf of Discovery Island.

But on Jan. 25 the animal was spotted in James Bay, prompting conservation officers to take action and tranquillize him for capture.

Conservation officials said at the time the wolf was clearly trying to get off Discovery Island — food resources were perhaps low, or maybe it was looking for a mate.

After a veterinarian had proclaimed the wolf healthy, the decision was made to transport him and release him near Port Renfrew in an isolated spot similar to the coastal habitat on Discovery Island.

Cheryl Alexander, a former environmental consultant who photographed and took video footage of Takaya over several years, said news of the wolf’s death has shot around the world. Messages from “devastated” Takaya followers have been flooding her email.

“That’s the word, ‘devastated,’ ” said Alexander in an interview from her Victoria home. “People are experiencing this incredible devastation.”

“It’s in South Africa, Slovenia, Switzerland all over Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the U.S.,” she said. “It’s mind-boggling.”

“I would not want to be that hunter now,” she added.

But she said the tragedy is really bigger than one hunter who was likely breaking no rules.

Alexander said hunting regulations should be changed to reflect the growing consensus that wolves should no longer be shot for sport, trophies or in misguided efforts to boost populations of other animals, like deer.

A real tragedy for Takaya was that he had grown somewhat accustomed to people, she said.

“He knew enough to stay out of the way,” Alexander said. “But he wouldn’t have known a hunter would pull out a gun and shoot him.”

She said she believes Takaya’s story was able to give some people hope in this time of quarantines and self-isolation.

“People thought if he could survive and figure out a way to handle it then they could too during this time we are now going through,” she said. “That’s why it’s so heart-breaking for people to hear this bad news now during this already terrifying time.”

rwatts@timescolonist.com

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