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Close encounters with wolves

The Eastern Gray Wolf is a mysterious animal which evokes different emotions in us. How you react comes down to how much time you’ve spent with them, or, more importantly, how much time you’ve taken to learn something about them. I personally have always revered them, having had several close encounters over the years. Each has left me with a feeling which has persisted for a lifetime.

My first interaction with a wolf was when I was a teenager, living in the Upper Ottawa Valley near Petawawa. I used to love to go to the back-country there and see the wildlife in unspoiled territory. On this particular day, I was walking along a long dirt road which spread out for a couple of kilometres in front of me. The tree-lined edges focused my eyes on the road. Suddenly a fisher leapt out of the woods on the right side and raced down the roadway, with a lanky grey wolf on its tail. They moved too fast for me to tell what the outcome was, but my guess is the wolf probably won. The wonder of this was, both animals were first-time sightings for me!

I recall camping alone in Algonquin Park one October weekend, and, while I prepared my mind for the hikes that day, I sat on the picnic table at my campsite. Out of the corner of my eye, a sleek grey animal emerged from the edge of the forest, trotted to within 50 meters of me, stopped, looked at me and then approached even more closely. Finally, it came within 25 meters, gave me the once over and trotted off back into the bush. The moment we made eye contact was spectacular.

On another occasion, I was doing breeding bird surveys, in the Parry Sound area, and had to do an eight-kilometre transact through the bush for a new roadway. The walk-in was uneventful except for the bear! (but that’s another story) At the end of the day, the light was fading fast, and I was anxious to get out of the bush before it became totally dark. As I neared the road, an eerie and prolonged howl broke the silence, between me and the car! Not sure what to do, I made a bit of noise and proceeded slowly back to the car, hoping the wolf would be scared off. Finally, at the car, I got in and started to drive, and there it was, a lovely young wolf stood on the road, and again the eye contact was spectacular. It’s almost like it had serenaded me and then showed itself so I could see its majesty.

This past week, I was up in the Rainy River/Kenora area of the province. We had seen wolf scat but no animals until the last night. While driving back from late evening bird surveys, we spotted a large animal on the shoulder of the road. We soon realized it was a fairly large wolf, the shaggy mane and broad shoulders gave us clues to its identity. As we approached, it moved off the road to get away from the car. I suggested to my friend we just sit quietly for a few moments and wait. Soon, we heard it in the brush beside the road, but in the darkening light couldn’t see it. Then suddenly, it emerged onto a small pathway beside the road and stood in full view about 25 meters away. We all made eye contact, until it decided it had had enough and moved back into the woods, only to emerge about 10 meters further away, to have one last look at us, before melting back into the forest.

As a youth, I recall going to Algonquin to participate in the wolf howls. These were scholastic outings to see if we could get wolves to respond to our calling. Using only our voices, we howled and yipped on the crisp October night. To our amazement, we had three different packs respond! What an amazing time I’ve had with these wonderful animals!

Geoff Carpentier is a published author, expedition guide and environmental consultant. Visit Geoff on-line at LinkedIn and Facebook.

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