For three mornings in a row, we had wolves come down to hunt salmon with the bears. Though I may call these creatures coastal wolves, as of yet, there is no proof that the species is ACTUALLY unique from the greater population of Cannis lupus – the gray wolf. Down in Southeast Alaska and in British Columbia – most specifically the Great Bear Rainforest – there is a unique subspecies of gray wolf often referred to as Sea Wolves. These guys feast on salmon and clams and crabs and swim between islands on a regular basis. With one foot in the forest and the other foot in the sea, theirs is a very unique lifestyle for a wolf.
The wolf that is pictured here in this image is a bit different. Though look very similar to the Sea Wolves, in my opinion, with sleek bodies, lots of reds and tawny browns, and they heavily depend upon salmon for sustenance at various times throughout the summer when the different species are running in different creeks. But they also hunt deer, moose, caribou, and can be found ranging into the mountains that this coastal plane presses up against.
Genetics will probably, maybe, sort all of this out. But then again, maybe it wont. With brown bears, mitochondrial DNA shows that there are only three separate groups in the Americas. Alaska / northern Canada, the ABC islands of Southeast AK, and BC / Alberta / lower 48. And yet, there are so many morphological differences between coastal brown bears and inland grizzlies that the battle still rages in the halls of academia as to whether or not these two types of bears are the same or different. Likewise, Kodiak brown bears are typically considered a very distinct subspecies of the brown bear – even by those who argue grizzlies are just inland browns. Yet genetics begs to differ with the Kodiak bears.
These sorts of arguments have been going on for a very long time. Ever since C. Hart Merriam and Teddy Roosevelt battled it out over how many subspecies of elk there were in North America, the world of biology and taxonomy has been divided into two camps: lumpers and splitters. Trends in science throughout the 20th century has swung back and forth like a pendulum ever couple of decades in terms of the popular opinion.
As for our wolves here, for now I will keep calling them coastal wolves. They eat salmon, dig for clams, and by and large have adapted to life on the coastal plain much the way coastal brown bears have.