The tale of the Chatam and Discovery Island wolf is one of wonder and intrigue.
He howls, he eats seals, and he swims from Discovery to Chatham, sometimes making the crossing by low tide.
Few, if anyone, know Takaya (the wolf) better than Songhees employee Ian Cesarec, who is the only person allowed to beach on the Chatham Islands and north Discovery Island, which are sacred, unceded Songhees lands (known traditionally as Tlchess).
“He’s a lot like a dog, he will come within 20 feet of me, sit down and scratch behind his ear,” Cesarec said. “Even when I don’t see him I can get a good idea of where he is by some of the evidence around me.”
There’s been plenty of stories about the wolf but seldom do they involve Cesarec. However, as the Songhees Land Enforcement officer, no one sees Takaya more often. Cesarec’s weekly duties include kicking people off the islands (the south half of Discovery is managed by B.C. Parks but despite clear signage delineating the Songhees land, Songhees are now fighting decades of unmonitored trespassing) and cleaning up illegal campfires.
That’s where he runs into Takaya.
During Cesarec’s travels, which include monitoring Tlchess with several cameras and a Transport Canada-permited drone, he has witnessed that the male coastal wolf regularly traverses the islands and archipelago on a 36-hour tour.
With feet like flippers, Takaya’s paws leave fresh footprints on the beach after a each tidal flush. Takaya’s scat has been analyzed and his diet is almost all seal or sealion. Hundreds of seals frequent the exposed rocks off the islands and Cesarec can tell when they gather in an unusual spot, that Takaya has been near.
“He has feet like flippers but one thing I haven’t seen is him swimming,” Cesarec said. “Once a massive sealion washed up dead on the beach and that was a lot of food for the wolf. He ate it for a while.”
As reported, Takaya showed up about seven years ago. Cesarec’s been privy to research on the wolf that others haven’t.
Takaya’s hair was analyzed and it matches a pack in the Campbell River region that uses the BC Hydro lines to travel up and down Vancouver Island. Something obviously happened that he was rejected from the pack. Around 2012, a wolf was spotted along the east coast of Vancouver Island as far south as Mill Bay.
He then presumedly swam the Saanich Inlet as he was sighted on the Saanich Peninsula before arriving at Chatham.
Boaters witnessed Takaya swim to Trial Island where the lighthouse keeper had dogs, but that was a short trip.
“I sometimes wonder why he doesn’t swim over to Ten Mile Point, it’s only a few minutes swim and there’s plenty of deer,” Cesarec said. “Or maybe he has, and he didn’t like it.”
But only nature would know, and Takaya clearly likes the quiet solitude, and seals, of the Songhees lands over the bustling roads and fenced off gardens of Ten Mile Point.
One thing that’s certain is no one should go near him, let alone feed him or interfere with his ways.
“He’s healthy, he has plenty of food, trust me, I see the seal remains,” Cesarec said. “He doesn’t need anything.”