Tag Archives: ontario

Howling for Blood

That’s right, I’m back!! After a long, unintended hiatus I have returned with a backlog of nerdery just waiting to be hatched and released. Little nature humour, there.

Anyway…

My lovely partner and I had a date the other night. Upon my super-excited, non-whiny request, we saw this movie:

Here’s a little synopsis: A bunch of guys working on the Alaskan pipeline are stranded in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of pissed-off, man-eating wolves in constant pursuit. That’s about it, really.

I have to admit, it was very entertaining, as well as horrifically gory,  and extremely intense.  Just my kind of flick.
However…I had a serious problem with this movie’s intention to further villainize wolves.

The Gray Wolf (Canis lupus), also known as the timber wolf, is common enough in Ontario. Their range covers 90% of the province, leaving out only the southern developed area. The other species of wolf present in Ontario is the smaller Eastern Wolf (Canis lupus lycaon), whose range is much more limited. It is found mostly in Algonquin Park and the surrounding area.

Gray wolves

Eastern wolves tend to have a reddish fur, and are smaller and leaner

While the Gray wolf has maintained healthy numbers across the province, Eastern wolves are listed as Special Concern on the Species At Risk list in Ontario. That means that Eastern wolves are protected in Algonquin Park and the surrounding area by a hunting ban, while it’s open season on Gray wolves year round. Shooting a Gray wolf on your own property requires no special permit. A hunting license allows you to bag as many wolves as you want; you only have to report your kills if you sell the pelt commercially. Wow.

the wolves in the movie were made larger and scarier than real wolves

Which brings me back to the movie. The main character was a guy who was hired specifically to shoot the “man-eating wolves” that apparently hunted the workers on the regular. Zuh???

Well well well. Let’s do some research, shall we?? I’m sure you recall my terrifying bear attack post.

After much research, my findings are quite shocking. In North American in the last 100 years, there have been approximately 9 fatal wolf attacks.

That’s right. NINE. IN A HUNDRED YEARS.

Let me break it down for you:
5 out of 9 were in the U.S (and 2 of those were wolves kept as pets that ate someone’s kid.)
Out of the 4 Canadian attacks, two were in 1922 in Manitoba and Ontario, respectively.

The other two fatal Canadian attacks were Patricia Wyman in Haliburton in 1996, and Kenton Joel Carnegie in Saskatchewan in 2005. And the latter one is still up in the air as to whether it was actually wolves, or a black bear (click on the link for more info, I found the whole thing quite fascinating)

But looking at the only fatal wolf attack in Ontario since 1922, Patricia Wyman’s death was an unusual circumstance. She had been employed at the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Preserve only a few days, when she entered the 15 acre wolf enclosure by herself. She was surrounded by the pack and killed, though not eaten. It appeared to be a case of defending territory against an unfamiliar intruder rather than man-eating wolves out for blood.

I can only conclude that as long you don’t have a wolf on a chain in your backyard within reach of your toddler, go inside a man-made wolf enclosure, or live in the bush in the early 1920s, the odds of being “hunted” by a pack of wolves is pretty damn low. Even this Alaskan newspaper thinks so.

Wolves didn’t even register on my fear index while camping in Algonquin; in fact, I had hoped to hear some howling, but didn’t.
Besides, who had time to think about wolves with all those man-eating bears around??

A Childhood Reunion

On a recent week-long portaging trip in Algonquin Provincial Park, I had the pleasure of meeting up with an old childhood friend, the caterpillar. As a child, I loved these little guys, and would actively seek them out in the woods around my house. I put them in boxes, pet the fuzzy ones, marveled at the big stripey smooth ones, and eventually let them go on their way. I hadn’t thought about these little critters in a long time. Then I found this guy:

I followed him obsessively for 10 minutes taking pictures...so for about 3 feet. ©Kristi2011

This was one of my favourites as a kid; the Spotted Tussock Moth Caterpillar. The moth itself is fairly unremarkable, but the caterpillar is exquisite!!  Also sometimes called the Yellow Woollybear (could it be any cuter, jeez?) Although their fuzziness is almost unbearable, their hairs can sometimes irritate the skin, though I don’t remember this ever happening to me.

This really made me think about the other caterpillars I used to encounter as a young nature nerd. Have you ever seen one of these?

© Copyright Sheryl Pollock 2011

This little beauty is the Monarch Caterpillar, the very same that turns into easily the most recognizable black and orange butterfly. This was a rare find as a kid. They are soft, smooth and their feet feel like tiny bits of velcro.

Not all caterpillars were as charming as these two. Anyone growing up in Northern Ontario in the early 90’s might remember these intruders:

Copyright Greg Hume

This is a Forest Tent Caterpillar, a species that experiences a boom every decade or so, to varying degrees of horror. A specific outbreak in the early 90’s in Ontario was particularly disgusting, deforesting vast areas and blanketing towns in squirmy, fuzzy grossness. I remember the sidewalks becoming a living, moving entity. Tree trunks were wrapped in metal to prevent the little buggers from climbing them. They would drop from the branches of the crab apple tree in my front yard onto my unsuspecting head. And, unfortunately, I remember the sound they made as I ran them over with my bike. Like a squishy popping noise. I couldn’t help it, really. They were everywhere.