Can a Wild Wolf and a Dog be Friends?

Last Updated on May 16, 2022 by Stone

In March of 2020, a wolf with a history of non-aggression towards dogs was killed in a remote area of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island. Amazingly, this wolf, known as Takaya, had spent nearly 6 years as the only wolf on a small island just off the coast of the city of Victoria, British Columbia.

No one knows why he made the island home or why he abruptly left but his presence was well documented by visitors to the area and through many close encounters with the only resident of the island, Cheryl Alexander.

She subsequently made a documentary with the video footage she collected. Encounters like the ones Alexander captured as well as those described by Nick Jans in his book, A Wolf Called Romeo beg the question “can a wild wolf and a dog be friends?” Read on to find out more.

Can a Wild Wolf and a Dog be Friends?

Yes. There have been many recorded incidents of wolves interacting without aggression and sometimes even playing with domesticated dogs that they encounter in nature. Wolves, especially when in a pack are known to be aggressive and even kill other wolves, coyotes, foxes, and dogs that they come across in their territory as they view these canids to be a threat. It seems that when a wolf is alone with no pack and no territory, there is potential for socialization with dogs.

Takaya’s Island

Takaya was a lone wolf that lived on the tiny Discovery Island located off the coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, near Oak Bay (a suburb of Victoria). In 2012, The wolf somehow managed to navigate through the Victoria metro area and swim the 2.3 miles (3.7 km) to the island where he took up residence. He was the only wolf on the island.

There were no game animals or fresh water and many believed the wolf would not survive⸺but survive he did for 6 years. Unlike other areas in BC, you would not expect to find a wolf here.

Google Map image of Discovery Island
Discovery Island in relation to Victoria, BC
Killer whale and satellite image of discovery island, bc
Discovery Island

The island is mostly uninhabited and is only about one mile (1.6 km) long and a half-mile (0.8 km) wide. A large portion of it forms Discovery Island Marine Provincial Park. There is an unmanned lighthouse and most of the land outside the provincial park is a part of the Songhees Nation Indian reservation. The only private land on the island is owned by Cheryl Alexander and her husband.

Alexander describes herself as an environmentalist and her proximity to Takaya allowed her to capture thousands of hours of video footage during his time there which she turned into a documentary (Takaya: Lone Wolf) and a book. The documentary has won awards and has been shown around the world.

Takaya Lone Wolf book cover
Cheryl Alexander’s Book about Takaya.

“I hope that this book will help create a better and more informed relationship between humans and wolves.”

Jane Goodall

In the Victoria region, Takaya became well known. Boaters, hikers, kayakers, and photographers could often catch a glimpse of the wolf when he chose to be seen. His presence created a mystery and many unanswered questions. Why did he choose to take up residence there? What happened to his pack? Was he hoping to find another pack on the island ( that, unfortunately, didn’t exist)? Why did he stay there as a lone wolf for so many years?

Takaya – Image by Cheryl Alexander

Worried about habituation, conservation officers urged people to stay away from the wolf but of course, people didn’t. Similar to the situation with the famous Alaskan wolf Romeo who appeared on the frozen MENDEHAL lake each winter to play with people’s dogs, curious humans could not stay away.

Takaya must have begun to view humans as harmless during his time there. It was reported by a man who used to patrol the area on behalf of the Sohee nation that the wolf would often come to within 20 feet of him and just hang out.

He may have survived so long due to the lack of competition. A lone wolf that runs afoul of an established wolf pack in their territory is often killed. While there were no game animals to hunt he seemed to do well feeding off of marine animals such as harbor seals. Wolves on the coast of British Columbia in fact, depend heavily on marine life for food as opposed to deer.

And Just like that – He left.

For some reason, in 2020 after several years on the island, the wolf swam back to Vancouver Island and was spotted in the neighborhoods just a short distance from the British Columbia parliament building. Maybe Takaya had a desire to be around other wolves that he could no longer ignore. Conservation officers found, tranquilized, and tagged him. He was then transported to an isolated area near the community of Port Renfrew.

Could a Takaya, a Wild Wolf, and a Dog be Friends?

Despite the typical aggression usually displayed towards other canids like domestic dogs, Takaya much like, Romeo in Alaska was curious instead. There were reports in 2012 on a nearby island and again in 2016 that Takaya had interactions with dogs that were all positive.

Nick Jans Book A Wolf Called Romeo
Romeo on Mendenhall Lake in Juneau, Alaska

After he had been relocated near Port Renfrew, he could often be spotted along the logging roads which locals often used to walk and exercise their dogs on off-leash. Takaya had more interactions with dogs during this time without incident. In fact, one local describes a time he was walking and looked back to see a wolf with a yellow tag touching noses with his dog, like what you would see at the dog park

What happened

Eventually, Takaya traveled 50km (31 miles) from where he was released to an area of private forest lands near Shawnigan Lake. This is a recreational area with a residential community around the lake. It was here that Takaya’s story ended. In March of 2020, the wolf was killed by a hunter traveling on a logging road looking for a friend’s missing dog.

His own dog had an encounter with Takaya. As the wolf approached the dog as he had with so many other dogs before, the hunter called his dog back to the truck. He expected the wolf to run off and when it didn’t he decided to take a shot at it since it was open season. His bullet tore through the now 11-year-old wolf (quite old for a wild wolf) and it fell dead.

As we already know by this point, Takaya was one tough wolf as the autopsy later revealed 10 broken ribs that happened earlier possibly from a vehicle collision. The fact that this wolf was still alive and fending for itself with this painful injury.

On the day he died, the wolf approached the dog and the hunter expecting no harm like every other time but was ended by the same species that he had only experienced curiosity and awe from before.

While the hunter did not break any laws (unlike the hunters in Alaska who killed Romeo), the Songhee nation fought to have the wolf returned to them as they were not happy this animal’s life was to be reduced to a pelt and trophy. Wolves are sacred to many first nations people and many others find the hunting of animals for sport and not food unnecessary.

Final Thoughts

For some reason, there are wolves that break away from their pack and spend time on the outskirts of human activity. These wolves make themselves known and approach humans, especially those with dogs with a sense of curiosity.

While the accounts of Takaya’s interactions don’t seem to reach the level of playfulness exhibited by Romeo in Alaska (playing with makeshift toys like ropes and foam floats used in boating), they are still quite remarkable.

In all of his interactions, there were no reports of aggression to these dogs. It also appears that humans were not feeding Takaya (same as Romeo). The drive to stick around was perhaps a social need that was not being met. It might have been this social longing that finally led the wolf to leave the island.

Takaya Howling

Unfortunately, having spent very little of his life around other wolves, Takaya was ultimately killed attempting to socialize the best way he knew how by approaching a dog he encountered on the logging trail probably to touch noses and say hello. It’s stories like this one that remind us that humans still have an uneasy relationship with wolves, one in which we usually fire a bullet first. Can a wild wolf and a dog be friends? I think they can.

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11 thoughts on “Can a Wild Wolf and a Dog be Friends?”

  1. What a fascinating read about Takaya and how he swam across to Discovery Island and back again to Vancouver Island. And then what a sad ending to his life, being shot. 

    I have read A Wolf Called Romeo, and when I now read this article about Takaya, I do think a wolf and a dog can be friends. It is when humans interfere, that disaster normally strikes. But leave animals to sniff one another and familiarize themselves with new things, and they can coexist. Thanks for sharing a great story, albeit with a sad ending for Takaya. 

    Reply
  2. This is such a heartbreaking story. Animals that trust and are repaid by losing their lives. I’m hearing how more wolves are being integrated back into national parks, they have an important role in nature’s balance. Your post has prompted me to order ‘Lone Wolf’ and will look forward to reading. i agree with you, I think a wolf and a dog can be friends. There is something for humans to take away from this story.

    Reply
  3. I found this story about Takaya the wolf fascinating and poignant. Do you think that if a tag was placed on this wolf that was clearly seen the hunter would not have killed it? The only saving grace was Takaya had lived a long and interesting life as a wolf and had enriched the lives of so many. 

    Many years ago we moved into a new home In a hillside area that coyotes called home. We befriended a family of coyotes who used to visit us most nights. When they had young coyotes, they brought them to see us. We knew they were wild and dangerous so we never got closer than a few feet from them in our backyard. 

    This shows that even wild animals can sense humans who bear them no harm and don’t attack them if the humans leave them alone. 

    Thanks for sharing this heartwarming story about Takaya the lone wolf. 

    Edwin

    Reply
    • I’m glad you liked the article. Thanks for reading! I don’t think the tag would have made a difference; either way tagged or not, it was legal for the hunter to kill Takaya in that area.

      Reply
  4. Wow! That was such a sad ending. I was not expecting that from the title. Tanya’s life seemed so free until the end of course. I am glad that she was fought for by the local tribe. Did they win the case?

    I do believe dogs and wolves can be friends in the right set of circumstances. I really enjoyed this story. I will be passing it on to my hubbie who is a wolf lover.

    Reply
  5. Hello. A very interesting and touching story. on the one hand and instructive. I didn’t know if a wild wolf could be a dog friend. As much as they pose a potential danger, I am not in favor of killing any animal. The end is especially sad, I didn’t expect that sincerely.

    Reply
    • Thank you for checking out the article. Unfortunately, whenever a wolf comes to trust humans it usually doesn’t end well for the wolf.

      Reply

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