Two teenage photographers from Vancouver staked out the west coast of Vancouver Island in May in hopes of encountering wildlife such as the elusive coastal wolf, and their patience paid off.
Liron Gertsman and Ian Harland, both 19, captured stunning images of a wolf running along a sandy beach, lying down for a rest and walking on beached logs. In some, the wolf seems to be looking right at the camera, while in one, the wild canine is playing with a rodent.
“It caught a mouse by pouncing on it, but then would pick it up and toss it high in the air,” Gertsman said.
“It would pounce on the spot where it landed, and repeat. It’s a great example of how wolves seem to be highly sentient animals. Coastal wolves typically eat seafood, so it was a rare behaviour to witness.”
Harland said the wolf must have been well fed, because “it had lots of opportunities to eat, but instead was just curious and wandering around.”
Gertsman and Harland spent about a week together in the Clayoquot Sound area, taking early-morning hikes and boat trips to look for whales, sea otters, birds and wolves.
On the west coast of BC lives the Coastal Wolf, an incredible animal specialized in living off of the sea. Watching these animals is always breathtaking; they are so incredibly intelligent and sentient. This one was busy searching for food in the intertidal zone. Special thanks to @oceanoutfitterstofino and @modestwhale #wolf #wolves #coastalwolf #seawolf #rainwolf #coastalwolves #bccoast #pnw #pacificnorthwest #intertidal #marine #westcoast #imagesofcanada #wildlifeplanet #earthcapture #featured_wildlife #canid #canine #wildanimals #wildlife #wildlifephotography #amazinganimals #beautifulanimals #naturalworld #nature_brilliance #pacific #pacificcoast #animalelite #mammals #naturephotography
One morning at the end of the week, they saw a sea lion carcass on the beach. Next to it was a coastal wolf.
It was their first sighting of a coastal wolf, despite spending considerable time in its habitat.
“When it happens, and you see such a magnificent animal just living its life peacefully in a beautiful landscape, it was really just awe and beauty that I felt,” Gertsman said.
The two kept their distance from the wild animal, using telephoto lenses to capture the shot.
Harland spent another two weeks at a field station on a remote island in the area, where he saw wolf tracks and had a fleeting encounter with a second wolf.
Both photographers hope their work inspires a desire to protect wildlife and their habitats.
With the wolf photos, they hope to tell a story about the threats facing wild wolves. These include loss of habitat as cities encroach on their space, and a culling program in northern B.C. and the Kootenay region intended to preserve dwindling caribou populations.
The cull has been widely criticized by environmental groups as misguided.
Without a doubt, my encounters with Coastal Wolves have been among my most memorable wildlife experiences to date. The intelligence, resourcefulness, and emotion displayed by these animals is incredible. Unique to the west coast of Canada, these beautiful wolves specialize in finding food in the intertidal zone. Sightings are rare, but always magical.
In September, the province proposed a cull that would eliminate more than 80 per cent of the wolf population in parts of central B.C.
“My goal is to bring these experiences to them, even if it’s through their phone screen, and hopefully incite some love, respect and desire to protect the environment,” Gertsman said.
Harland and Gertsman have both been honing their photography skills for years.
Harland picked up photography when he was about 13, when two of his aunts gifted him old gear they no longer used. He started visiting wildlife sanctuaries in Vancouver and fell in love with wildlife photography.
He works full-time as a photographer, doing commercial work, shooting weddings, portraits and travel photography. He’s currently in Thailand learning to scuba dive, and plans to get into the world of underwater photography.
Gertsman has been behind a camera since he was five, using his parents’ point-and-shoot camera before buying his first DSLR with money he saved from his allowance and doing odd jobs for his family.
A second-year biology student at the University of British Columbia, Gertsman is already working semi-professionally as a photographer, and plans to go full-time when he finishes his degree. Gertsman teaches wildlife photography workshops and gives presentations on conservation and photojournalism.