Wolves are among the most resilient and adaptable animals on Earth. From being hunted, listed as endangered, and then delisted and now relisted, they have had quite the journey. The lives and habitats of these creatures have been thoroughly studied by scientists, governments, and individuals, and yet, they continue to surprise us. For example, did you know that there is a species of wolves that live near the ocean and only eat seafood? Found along the Pacific Coast in British Columbia, this rare group of wolves is known as “sea wolves.” Their unique adaptation makes them great swimmers, and they can comfortably swim between coastal islands. They hunt fish and other seafood and live off the ocean.
There are mainly two types of sea wolves, and their lives revolve around the ocean.
Sea wolves, also known as the “British Columbia wolf,” are among the 38 subspecies of the gray wolf. They inhabit a narrow region, which includes the near-shore islands and sections of the mainland coast. Found primarily in the temperate rainforests of British Columbia and Vancouver Island, these coastal wolves are divided into two groups – coastal island wolves and mainland coastal wolves. The mainland wolves, though coastal, consume less seafood than the island wolves. Unlike the inland wolves, the island sea wolves are entirely dependent on the sea for food.
In fact, the island sea wolves are genetically different from their inland cousins. According to a study published in BMC Ecology in 2014, the unique DNA of the island coastal wolves sets them apart from the interior wolves. Similar genetic differences among wolves have been previously observed. However, discovering something like this in such a small area makes it unique. Because wolves are mobile animals, they are capable of covering great distances and crossing natural borders. That is why genetic differences can be expected when the species are separated by a significant distance, but not when they live relatively close by.
Sea wolves are excellent swimmers, and their primary diet is seafood.
Given their unique lifestyle, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that sea wolves always have two paws in the water. Like other wolf species, the coastal wolves are great hunters, and they are also excellent swimmers. In fact, they can swim for several miles and travel from one island to another in search of food. Though inland wolves mainly feast on deer and elk, the coastal wolves are pescatarians that prefer salmon, seals, and other marine animals. If they fail to find salmon, they make do with other tasty options such as whale carcasses, river otters, herring eggs, clams, and barnacles.
Because of their diet and habitat, sea wolves are much smaller than most gray wolf species. A coastal wolf is about as big as a German shepherd, and it has reddish-brown fur. Interior wolves tend to be 20% larger than sea wolves.
Sea wolves are mysterious and elusive. Only a few lucky ones have been able to spot them.
Because of their remote existence, sea wolves are not easily spotted. Though they mostly lurk in mossy forests, they carry a magical aura that is both inviting and awe-inspiring. Besides British Columbia and Vancouver Island, sea wolves are also found in Alaska’s Alexander Archipelago.