These Sea Wolves Swim for Miles and Live Off the Watery Wilds

In a remote stretch of rainforest on Canada's Pacific coast, a unique population of wolves has taken to a life of the sea.

A wolf swims in the water.

 Ian McAllister via bioGraphic

Wolves have forever had a storied place in the minds and hearts of humans, and whether seen as threatening or predatory or magical or mysterious, most people think they know wolves. But then there are the sea wolves.

Along the wild Pacific coast of British Columbia – a misty wonderland of craggy glacier-gouged shores and temperate rainforest – there lives a population of wolves genetically and behaviorally distinct from the rest. They've traded in deer and sheep and mountain goats for the bounty of the sea. They've been known to swim up to eight miles to get from the mainland to an island; they live on barnacles and herring roe, seals, and dead whales. Some 90 percent of their food comes directly from the ocean.

Ian McAllister, an award-winning photographer and author – and verified sea wolf enthusiast – has long been fascinated by these singular creatures and wanted to create a split-level shot that highlighted the wolves’ unique relationship with the ocean, explains California Academy of Sciences' bioGraphic magazine.

Each spring, this particular family group visits the shore, drawn by the lure of the season's offerings. As the wolves dipped into the sea and began licking the protein-rich herring roe from the kelp, McAllister swam toward them.

"The curious canines approached him so closely that he could hear them grunting into his snorkel," notes bioGraphic. "He took several frames, then pushed back into deeper water without daring to look up."

Thankfully, even in the face of grunting sea canids, the shots McAllister managed to take are stunning. The scene captured above beautifully illustrates a species with the strength and grace to adapt to a decidedly non-lupine habitat, launching the sea wolves into a whole new realm of magic and mystery.