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Story of Takaya, the lone wolf of Discovery Island, touched people around the world

Lucky Oak Bay residents could sometimes hear the howl of a lone wolf that lived on an island not far from their shore.
Cheryl Alexander, left, and driftwood artist Tanya Bub with the driftwood sculpture of Takaya in the Fairmont Empress Hotel lobby. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Lucky Oak Bay residents could sometimes hear the howl of a lone wolf that lived on an island not far from their shore.

Though few saw Takaya, the wolf who spent at least seven years living on Discovery Island until early this year, many were touched by his story of survival and resilience.

Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch said the wolf had a presence in the community, where many listened to his howls from their houses or as they kayaked and sailed around the island he called home.

“Having that personal ­connection, and then having the wolf killed really struck home for many of us,” Murdoch said.

Takaya was killed by a hunter near Shawnigan Lake in March, about two months after the wolf was spotted in James Bay, prompting conservation officers to tranquilize and relocate him. He was moved to an isolated area near Port Renfrew, about 50 kilometres from where he was killed.

Despite his death, the wolf’s story is still being told, with artists locally and internationally ­commemorating Takaya’s life in sculptures, paintings, murals, ­woodwork and jewelry.

A CBC documentary in 2019, later shown in the U.K., France and Germany, brought the story of Takaya’s unusual solitary life to an international audience. After his death, Cheryl Alexander, a wildlife photographer who documented the wolf’s life, said she received ­messages from people around the world sharing their grief.

Local sculptors are now creating pieces to honour the animal, and an entire arts festival featuring work by artists from around the world is planned for Oct. 24 in Nootka Court.

Alexander said the festival was inspired by spontaneous submissions of art from people touched by Takaya’s story and an encounter with the wolf that left a local gallery’s owners in awe.

Chris MacDonald and Shirley Blackstar, who own Eagle Feather Gallery, contacted Alexander after crossing paths with Takaya as he made his way across the city in January.

“They said there was just something about his essence that really, really resonated and struck them,” she said.

In chatting with the couple, Alexander mentioned she had been receiving art honouring Takaya, and the idea for a festival to display the collection was born.

The one-day event will feature pieces by more than 50 artists from Canada, the U.S., Australia, Egypt, Slovenia, and Scotland, among others.

“They’ve all just wanted to do art to pay tribute to Takaya,” Alexander said, adding the collection grew so large she had to stop accepting submissions.

A larger-than-life driftwood sculpture of Takaya is already on display in the lobby of the Fairmont Empress Hotel, and will move to Nootka Court for the festival.

Driftwood artist Tanya Bub visited Discovery Island with Alexander to collect wood for the piece. Alexander showed the artist Takaya’s spots, where he spent sunrises and sunsets, and shared stories of her relationship with the wolf to give Bub a sense of his personality. Bub wanted to create a piece that captured the wolf as Alexander saw him.

She intended to create a life-sized version of Takaya, but as Bub worked on the piece, the wolf grew in size, until there were three or four faces layered on top of each other.

“At some point, I realized what I was doing, which was trying to bring Takaya back, which obviously I can’t do. I wanted to bring him back for her,” Bub said.

The piece ended up more than five feet tall, and she called it Takaya: Larger than life, which is how many people see him, she said.

“There’s sort of a mythic quality to him.”

Another sculpture of the wolf is in the works, and the region’s residents are invited to share their stories and reflections of Takaya to inform the piece.

Victoria artist Kent Laforme has been commissioned by an anonymous donor to create a marble sculpture of the wolf. The District of Oak Bay is accepting comments at

Alexander recently published a book on Takaya’s life, called Takaya: Lone Wolf, which is selling out in local book stores.

She believes Takaya’s story has the power to connect people to wildlife and inspire a love of wolves.

She hopes his legacy will lead to changes in B.C.’s wolf cull and hunting regulations to increase protections for the animal.

“He’s becoming a legend around the world. And I love that because it means that his death isn’t in vain, that there is some meaning to come out of that,” Alexander said.

> Read an excerpt from Takaya: Lone Wolf by Cheryl Alexander