A wolf encounter
Tim Lydon, who works in Alaska, writes of an encounter he had with a wolf there during the late summer that was very calm and seemed motivated out of curiosity more than anything.
Calm of the wild.
by Tim Lydon – Missoula Independent
This is similar to all of the “close encounters” I have had with wolves over the years in Idaho. On a number of occasions, while working near Clayton, Idaho, I actively sought out wolf encounters with the Buffalo Ridge Pack. On at least 4 occasions I encountered wolves, while on foot during the late evening or at night, and the wolves only expressed mild interest when they mistook me for other wolves after I howled.
On one of those occasions I surprised the whole pack that had come down to the steelhead pond that I was tending for the Idaho Fish and Game so that they could eat the smolts that hadn’t left the pond yet. I had been given a radio receiver so that I could monitor the wolves while they interacted with the turbo-fladry which was being tested around the pond after several consecutive years where they came to feed there.
On another occasion I was asked to explore an area that had been used by packs of wolves that had repeatedly undergone heavy control actions where all of the known members had been killed. A friend had recently taken a hike in the area and had reported that she saw numerous wolf tracks. I reported this to someone in the wolf program and they asked me to check it out. Upon arrival at the area, on foot, two white heads popped up out of the sagebrush just 20 yards away from me to then run towards the suspected den site after one sharp bark. I invaded their denning area and nothing more than a warning bark to other wolves that I never saw. Fortunately I got this photo of them.
I have also been told stories by people who worked in the wolf program about doing pup counts in dens while the alpha female ran frantically around howling while they were halfway down the hole counting pups. If there is ever a situation where a wolf would attack someone then I would think this would be it but they left the scene untouched.
Is this unusual? Are wolves supposed to be afraid of people? Well, when you look at historical accounts of wolves from before the great slaughter of them and their prey, the buffalo, you will see that wolves paid scant interest in people but also routinely approached them out of curiosity. It seems that recent stories about wolf encounters are highly subject to interpretation by those who experience them. More often than not the people come away unscathed and their stories seem to be more influenced by what they felt about wolves before the encounters than by what happened during and after the encounters.
Never, during all of those years that I frequently encountered wolves, did I feel threatened. Actually, I felt blessed because I was able to see wolves on a very frequent basis and, as you know, I am fascinated by them.