Harvey Humchitt Jr. has operated the lighthouse on Cape Scott, a provincial park renowned for old-growth trees and rugged terrain, for the last 17 years.
While the area doesn’t get much in terms of human traffic, with only about 3,000 to 5,000 hikers per year according to Humchitt, wolves are routinely spotted by him and his colleagues.
“Mostly just wandering by. It seems like we’re in the middle of their highway or something when they’re transiting the islands looking for food and stuff,” he said. “We hear them more than we see them. On average we probably hear the wolves once or twice a week…the whole pack is howling and you can hear it everywhere.”
But just this week, Humchitt experienced what he describes as his scariest wildlife encounter while he was returning home from a radio room at the lighthouse station.
“I heard a little rustling coming from the brush so I turned my flashlight to see if I could see what was making the noise,” he said.
The light flashed on, and Humchitt realized he was face-to-face with a wolf caught completely unaware.
“It seemed to have gotten a little startled and it sort of lunged at me,” he said. “In a split second I saw the deck for our house and that the gate was open, so I made the choice to run to the deck. And as I was running to the deck, the wolf gave chase.”
He ran to the gate and closed it, and said as he did he could hear the top predator’s jaws snap three times as it tried to take a bit out of him.
When he looked out of a window moments later to see where the animal was, he saw it running across a helicopter pad and eventually out of sight.
Humchitt said he was shocked because in all of his years working around wildlife, he’s never seen a wolf give chase before. But after he did some more research he quickly learned why the frightening encounter unfolded the way it did.
“Wolves hunt their prey on the run,” he said. “When I started running, I basically told the wolf that I was prey. ‘Hey, come get me.'”
Wildlife educator Gary Allan agrees and recommends anyone faced with a wolf to stand their ground.
“Don’t run to get out of it. Walk backwards or walk still watching the animal and also watching where you’re going because you don’t want to trip,” he said. “If you trip and fall and it’s there, again, that could trigger it taking a lunge at you.”
It’s advice Humchitt will keep in mind, knowing that he’s likely to see one again given where he works.
Wolf encounters are not uncommon on Vancouver Island, which is home to an elusive species of the animal only found on the north and mid-island.
A number of encounters in Pacific Rim National Park earlier this year were blamed on wolves becoming accustomed to humans.