The End of The Wolf, The Start of The Questions

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Stqéyəʔ is the Songhees First Nation’s word for a wolf that became known as Takaya — a solitary wolf who lived alone for almost eight years on Discovery Island, in British Columbia, Canada. Larry Pynn explains in Hakai Magazine how during this time he became a local celebrity, particularly adored by conservation photographer Cheryl Alexander,such a regular visitor that Takaya “became a lot like a dog, he will come within 20 feet … sit down, and scratch behind his ear.”

Fast forward to 2020 and Takaya, for unknown reasons, finally left his home and swam to the main island, where, in a world in which humans no longer equaled friends, he met his end at the hands of a hunter. His death has led to a debate around who is to blame. For some, it’s his greatest advocate, Cheryl.

“She broke the wildness of this wolf,” says Danny Smith, a BC trophy-and-meat hunter who has appeared as a hunting personality on Wild TV. “It trusted her.”

… The provincial government had also made up its mind on that point. “It (Takaya) is habituated to people due to years of Discovery Island well-wishers encroaching on its space,” conservation officer Sergeant Scott Norris said in an internal government email.

Cheryl disputes this, not buying into the argument that wolves should naturally be wary of people as “The fear has come from how we treat them. That’s the sad part of this.” Canadian hunting laws have also been brought under the spotlight — wolves are not eaten, but rather hunted as trophies — which can be hard to justify.

Alexander feared Takaya would be shot or trapped ever since his relocation.

“It’s very definitely the government regulations and mentality that need to be addressed rather than just this individual hunter who unfortunately was in the position where he shot a famous wolf,” she says.

The provincial government reports that hunters kill, on average, 20 wolves per year on Vancouver Island, while trappers take another seven. Those kills are not enough to jeopardize the population, but it underscores a troubling attitude to predators, says Darimont. “This is not an issue of the population’s numerical sustainability, it’s an ethical issue. I think it’s wrong to kill something with no intention of eating it. Let’s face it, it’s pretty gross behavior … and it casts all hunters in a bad light,” he says.

Whatever your viewpoint, it is clear that Takaya lost his wildness, and then his life. In his death, he has highlighted the different social values of the people who inhabit his old territory — with the arguments even extending to his remains.

… on March 31, Alexander wrote to the provincial government saying that, if it comes into possession of the skull and hide, “I request that they be returned to myself so that Takaya’s legacy can be continued through public exhibitions at museums.”

… That didn’t happen.

On April 30, the Ministry of Environment provided me with a brief statement: “We understand that the hunter and Songhees First Nation have reached a resolution that will see the body returned to the Nation. We are grateful that a resolution has been reached, so that Songhees can carry out appropriate ceremony for healing and closure.”

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