For the second time in less than a year, the residents of Victoria in Western Canada find themselves enslaved by a wolf. Standing in a hotel lobby, this wolf is a mix of driftwood, seashells, and dried algae. Weighing almost 70 kg (150 pounds) and standing five feet tall, the sculpture is a tribute to Takaya, the celebrated wolf who lived in a scattering of wild islands less than two miles from the city center.
The unlikely story of his eight years of self-imposed isolation wowed locals, some of whom paddled through rocky outcrops and windswept trees in hopes of catching a glimpse of the animal. But one day at the end of March, the click of a hunter’s rifle caused an ending to a narrative which had come to represent society’s complicated relationship with elusive predators.
In the months since Takaya’s death, artists like Tanya Bub have worked to preserve her memory. “It turned out to be quite an emotional piece,” he says, after spending three and a half weeks mounting the image. “There is a very strong element of resurrection in driftwood art, because it was a living tree, then it died. Spend all this time in the water, on the beaches. When I collect it for art, I bring it back to life. “
Other artists have also worked to ensure that Takaya is remembered: there is a wall portrait of him in an old lighthouse and dozens have painted and sketched it. The Songhees First Nation, in whose traditional territory the wolf lived, is working with the British Columbia government to have Takaya’s skin returned to him so that he can be buried in a ceremony.
“I always thought her story was remarkable and gave us insight into a quiet life – one that helped us better understand and respect our place on Earth,” says Cheryl Alexander, a photographer who documented much of Takaya’s existence. After his death, he received a flood of tributes from 14 countries, including videos, sketches, paintings and letters. Eager to preserve his memory, Alexander commissioned Bub to recreate the driftwood wolf collected from the islands he once roamed.
But while working on the sculpture, Bub says she became frustrated with the project, feeling that nothing could complete it. “I kept doing it, tearing it apart, recreating it. Finally, I realized that I was trying to bring this animal back, ”he said. “But I couldn’t bring him back to life.”
For Alexander, the months since the shooting have been filled with a desire to make sense of Takaya’s death. In the previous weeks, Takaya had been seen approaching dogs and their owners along a strip of forest path, displaying a curiosity that seemed to stem from gradual habituation to humans. In late March, he walked toward a hunter who had parked, with his dogs, along a forest road. The hunter killed him. “They shot Takaya because he came to trust people,” says Alexander.
In British Columbia, hundreds of wolves, which are considered vermin that need to be eradicated, die from sport each year. Hunters generally only take the hides, discarding the remains. They have begun to channel the growing outrage, and change perceptions, Alexander and local conservation groups a petition calling for a moratorium on wolf hunting in British Columbia which has so far received more than 65,000 signatures.
While Takaya’s legacy has aligned perfectly with the goals of conservation groups, his curiosity, or lack of fear, has left open tough questions about the relationship the locals had fostered with the wolf.
“People were understandably infatuated with this beautiful animal that lived on the edge of its ecological niche, surrounded by humans on this small island,” says Chris Darimont, a wolf expert at the University of Victoria and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation. “But they probably didn’t appreciate the kind of fate he was likely to encounter. He learned with sadness that close and persistent contact with humans never caused serious harm.
Because conflicts between humans and wolves overwhelmingly result in the wolf’s death, fear is a necessary element for survival.
While sports carnage is often the focus of defense campaigns, Darimont is hopeful that the public will realize that persistent invasion by humans into once wild areas poses a much greater existential risk to life. wild, including wolves. In some cases, the level of mortality is so high that carnivore populations are barely holding up.
Point out where Takaya was shot: along a forest road, which cuts through land that was once forest. “Human beings ask more and more of animals. And the reality is that there are limits to what they can answer, ”he says. “If Takaya had lived the most typical life, he would have left when he heard the noise of a truck engine.”
Alexander disagrees that Takaya has become habituated to humans or lost his savage character. She points to the autopsy that showed him to be a healthy man in the twilight of his life. He had recently eaten a beaver and, apart from the broken ribs, he was in good shape.
“He was a wild wolf, until the end,” she says.
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