May 13

Traveling to the North Pole, Part 6: Wolves!

I’ve been looking for wolves whenever I have had a free moment, and have finally seen some!

They were down by a shipping container that is used to contain cardboard fires (which is how cardboard is disposed of).  The disposal people use old cooking oil to get the fires started, and the wolves like the smell; I’d been told they often hang out near the container. For the last two weeks, although I’d seen their tracks, I’d not seen the animals.

First one came out to investigate my footsteps, then another, and another, and another.  To my surprise, the first one was bold and trotted right towards me.  It got so close, I had problems focusing on it.  I knew that I first had to pay attention to the situation at hand, and worry about photos later, because it wasn’t happening the way I wanted.

Anticipating a distant viewing, I was carrying a monster 400 MM lens, and wasn’t at all prepared for the more initimate circumstances presented by this animal.  While it came to within 6 feet of me, another one slipped behind a rise and started to flank me.  “Oh no you don’t” I thought, and started to casually back up.  Bold guy followed me, but the one behind the ridge eventually came back into sight, and not in the scariest location – behind me – that I had worried about.  Eventually, when it realized I wasn’t going to give it any food – or whatever it was expecting – bold guy flopped down and huffed, just like my dog.

Speaking of my dog: I have often heard the remark that my dog looks like a “snow wolf.”  Now I know exactly how similar he is!  The wolves are more vulpine, and have bigger feet – huge feet, with furry tops larger than the footprint of the pads – which are large enough:

but the comparison is apt:

I wasn’t comfortable being surrounded by a pack of wolves, so I kept moving away.  They followed me for a couple of hundred yards, but at a more respectable distance than the first encounter.  Every time I stopped, they stopped.  Every time I moved, they moved.  I took a few pictures but was uncertain of how to handle the situation; I wanted to get more shots of the wolves interacting but every time I showed interest, they came closer.  It wasn’t really what I wanted, because I had no nearby shelter.  To my knowledge, they’ve never attacked a person here, but I’ve heard stories about people’s hands being nibbled.  How dangerous are these particular guys, anyway?

Eventually, they all lay down and started howling.  It sounded just like my dog! Other, unseen wolves returned the howl.  After a while, they all got up and walked out of sight, sometimes playing with each other and bounding in a recognizable play attitude, as at a dog park.  I am not fooled by appearances though – these are wild animals – and I was both glad that they were away and dissapointed that I didn’t get to observe them longer.


7 Comments so far

  1. Christina May 13th, 2012 6:02 PM

    Interesting creatures. But your dog is cuter!

  2. DiAnne May 13th, 2012 8:15 PM

    all I can say is WOW!!!

  3. Gaelyn May 13th, 2012 11:30 PM

    Sometimes you have to be cautious what you ask for.

    Thrilling! And scary!

    Great shots.

  4. Erin July 26th, 2012 7:33 AM

    Great story and great pics! These are very beautiful animals. Your dog is very pretty as well! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Dan Greenspan July 26th, 2012 10:14 AM

    Thanks for your comment!

  6. Jack July 27th, 2012 1:14 PM

    Really neat!!! My wife and I were hiking in the Grant Tetons two years ago and had the privelege of seeing the aftermath of a wolf pack taking down an elk or moose. There was a very lage black wolf (ranger said it was the beta male) feasting on the remains while a Grizzlie came over the ridge to take up where the wolf was leaving off. Saw interesting confrontation between the Grizzlie and some coyotees that wanted in on the meal. Coyotees lost.

  7. Maggie July 30th, 2012 6:45 AM

    Wow, the wolf really does look like your dog! Amazing.

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