There is growing frustration on Vancouver Island, where a wolf-dog hybrid has been roaming wild and evading capture for weeks.
The situation has taken on added urgency since Saturday, when the animal known as “WD-40” killed a small dog from a campground in Coombs.
Greg Salmon and Carolyn Marchilton watched in shock as the wolf-dog snatched their leashed French bulldog named Ocean. They never recovered the dog’s body, but did find a pool of blood.
“The loss and the grief of losing Ocean is absolutely unbearable,” Salmon told Global News on Monday. “We wish for nobody to ever have to go through what we are still experiencing.”
Residents in the area have been raising concerns about wolf dog for weeks. It is unclear where the animal came from or how it ended up in the area, though there are rumours it was dumped from a vehicle, circulating in the community. Following Saturday’s attack, some trails in the area were closed, and residents have been warned to keep a close eye on pets and children.
“Somebody needs to step up and protect the public,” area resident Nancy Gourlay said. “It’s behaving more like a wild animal than a domestic animal for sure, or something in between, and nobody seems to be taking responsibility.”
Following a series of encounters, an organization called Find Lost and Escaped Dogs (FLED) offered its help to try and trap the animal. But it has since pulled out amid growing animosity from the community.
FLED co-founder Gary Shade said the situation has highlighted frustrating gaps in the way animals are managed on the island.
“(The BC Conservation Officer Service) said they wouldn’t touch it because it’s not a true wolf, its a hybrid,” he said. “Animal control has got limitations on what they can do … and does not have anybody who is qualified to use a tranquilizer gun, where conservation officers do.”
In a statement, the Regional District of Nanaimo said the local animal control contractor has set a trap, but that the district has no jurisdiction on Crown land.
The BC SPCA said it is not actively investigating, but the minister of the environment who represents the Conservation Officer Service said the SPCA has jurisdiction.
“People in the community are legitimately concerned … What I can say is the Conservation Officer Service is always ready to assist local officials or the SPCA to track this animal and help get this animal to a place where it is not posing at threat,” Environment Minister George Heyman said.
“We don’t want to trade back and forth, we want to resolve the issue, but we want to respect the jurisdiction at the same time.”
Animal lawyer V. Victoria Shroff described the situation as unusual, adding that it doesn’t fall neatly into B.C.’s existing laws and regulations.
“Its a bit of a grey area — we’re talking about is it a dog? Is it a wolf? Is it a wolf-dog? And I think that’s where the problem lies,” she said. “If we are talking about more of a wild animal or more of a domesticated dog then we have different levels of enforcement that come into play, but in a case like this, who is to say this isn’t somebody’s pet that escaped.”
With no obvious owner to take responsibility for the animal, Shroff said she believes the Conservation Officer Service, supported by a wildlife veterinarian, needs to play a key role.
“People are not prepared and they do not know how to handle wolf-dog hybrids,” she said. “So while they are not illegal to be kept as pets in B.C., they really should be I think for most people.”
In the meantime, trails around the campground where Ocean was snatched remain closed, and the public remains on edge.
Anyone who sees the animal is urged to call authorities or B.C.’s Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line at 1-877-952-7277.
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