Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Wolf Encounter, Up Close and Personal

This morning, Jane, over at Hard Work Homestead, wrote of two stray dogs on her property that looked very much like wolves. Since wolves don't live in her area, she quickly realized they were indeed dogs and not wolves, but none the less, having stray dogs harassing your livestock is not a pleasant happening. Jane's post reminded me of a post I originally made in October of 2009 and decided to reprint below.

Here is "Meeting Mr. Wolf."

The tale I'm going to tell (and it is a true one) took place thirty-some years ago when we were homesteading on the first piece of property we bought here in Minnesota.

It was about this time of year, in the fall, and we had our milk goats housed in an old log barn that had originally been built on the land when it was first homesteaded in the early 1900s.

That particular late afternoon, my husband was about a mile down the road at a friend's house who was our closest neighbor and owned and operated a saw mill. Our daughter was three or four years old. As I got ready to do outside chores, I gave her the choice of coming with me or staying inside. She knew that when neither her dad nor I was in the house with her and she chose to stay inside, she had to gather together some books and stay in a designated comfy chair to "read" while we were outside. Fortunately, that day she chose to stay inside.

The barn was a ways away from the mobile home we were then living in, and I always had my hands full when I took the hike down to the barn to do the milking. That day I had the wash bucket, the milk pail, and another bucket of apple peelings to give the goats. The door to the barn was on one of the short ends. It was a dutch door, and I had closed the bottom part of it earlier in the afternoon because it was windy out and all the goats were snuggled down inside the barn. I had to walk along one long side of the barn and then take a left hand turn to get to the end the door was on.

As I turned that corner, I stopped in mid-step when I came within three feet of one very large, beautiful white and gray wolf sitting on his haunches in front of the closed bottom part of the barn door.

Silly me. My first inclination was that he was someone's AWOL sled dog. There was a family living about two miles away as the crow flies that had a small team for mushing, and I immediately thought of them as occasionally one of their dogs would get off his chain and the whole neighborhood would be alerted to be on the lookout for the escapee.

I said out loud, "Well, whose sled dog are you?" Other than to tilt his head and look at me inquisitively, the wolf didn't move a muscle. We looked at each other for a few seconds before it slowly dawned on me that this was no runaway domesticated dog. This was one honking, huge, healthy timber wolf.

Starting to talk to him in a very calm voice, I slowly backed up the way I had just come. "You shouldn't be here so close to the barn. We have big goats and little goats in there and you would really scare them if you were to jump over that door into the barn. You need to go back into the woods now and stay away from our buildings."

I walked backwards about halfway up to the house before I had the nerve to turn around and scurry the rest of the way up to our porch. When I reached the house, I saw the wolf trot up along the same path I had just taken. Gulp. He was a big one. About a third of the way up the path, there was a road going off to the right we had made by driving across one of our hay fields. This road eventually led to the thick woods where it became one of our ski trails.

Mr. Wolf ambled down the road until he disappeared from view. I got on the phone and called the house where Papa Pea was. The nine year old daughter answered the phone and I told her to go outside to find Papa Pea and tell him it was no emergency, but I'd like him to come home as soon as possible which he did.

I related my story to him. He took a gun (not to harm the wolf but rather to scare him away if need be) and went down the road to see if he could spot any evidence of the wolf. He was gone about ten minutes when we heard one shot fired.

Papa Pea had followed the road to where it crossed a small creek before going up into the woods. Near the creek bed he heard some rustling behind a huge boulder and then saw two big, fuzzy, pointed ears slowly showing over the top of the boulder, and then a forehead, and then a pair of healthy, sparkling eyes. (All the better to see you with, my dear. Hee-hee.)

He fired his gun into the ground, and shouted at the wolf that we'd appreciate it if he'd stay away from our animals. The wolf turned tail and loped off into the woods.

Papa Pea returned and told us what had happened and remarked, "That was one big, beautiful specimen of a wolf!"

When my heart rate finally returned to normal, I realized what a truly unique experience I had just had. The wolf didn't feel threatened by my presence nor was he in the least aggressive toward me. Because he was so calm, and inquisitive, and beautiful, I didn't think to panic when I came upon him.

That was the last time we ever had any problem with wolves being so close to our buildings or animals. Well, except for the time our ninety pound, bear-like Bouvier dog, Max, was lured out into the field by a female wolf in heat and her husband/boyfriend/significant other came charging out of the woods intent on having Max for lunch. But that's a story for another day.


dr momi said...

Unreal!!!....and that was before the wolf #'s were up so high! There has been sightings of wolves on our hunting land recently -- nothing right by the house.

Jane @ Hard Work Homestead said...

What a wonderful story. I am sure at the time you would want to pee your pants, but in hindsight it was a rare opportunity to see these beautiful creatures up close. And so great that it moved on leaving your animals (and you) untouched. I bet you went out to do chores banging the bucket for weeks after.

Jane @ Hard Work Homestead said...

Oh, and I really got a laugh- I live in dog country and thought mine were wolves, and you live in wolf country and thought yours were dogs.

Susan said...

It was a good thing you didn't have that little dumpling Chicken Mama with you! What an amazing story. They are such beautiful animals and so fearsome. There are stories about cougars here - I do hope they are only stories.

Sue said...

Great story. Sometimes it's best we DON'T know what we are encountering at the time. They say they can smell fear. Maybe this one knew Mama Pea was the fearsome one!
I had an encounter with coyotes at our old place. I thought they were german shepherds--I think the neighbors thought I was a few marbles short when I asked if someone was missing them. They knew what they were.....

Lisa said...

Hi Mama Pea!
Love the way you tell a good story....particularly when it's a true one! By the way, your remodeling is looking terrific!

Patty said...

We've had a lot of wolves "talking" near our house lately, and I can't help thinking of them as I go back and forth to the barn. Hope I never have such a close encounter as yours!
It does make a good story though. :)

Sparkless said...

Oh wow that is an amazing story. I get to visit with a wolf/dog at the ranch my daughter rides at. This dog is more wolf than dog and her head is massive but she's one big cuddler and loves to lean into your leg as you rub her ears. I don't think I'd like to see a real wolf up close. We have more trouble with the cougars here than wolves.

judy said...

by golly we have discovered the original author of none other than,THAN-----"Little Red Riding Hood" now don't tell me different ,I'll never believe you,now I gotta go crawl up next to papa bear and cuddle up,I'm still shivering from that one

The Apple Pie Gal said...

Wow! I wonder how many of us could have remained that calm? My Dad always hollered at dogs "Get outta here!" and geez if I don't do the same thing! I think your approach would be safer. Fortunately we don't have wolves. Coyotes, yes. I wonder which of the two is more troublesome. Anyone out there have both????

You really need to write that book! You always have the best stories!

And yes, you and Jane are one mixed up pair!!! Together you could really be a hoot!

Mama Pea said...

dr momi - Yep, they are certainly being seen more up here right now also. We'll all have to keep a sharp eye on outside animals this winter, that's for sure.

Jane - You and I probably need to go to dog and/or wolf identification school. You know I was a little skittish every time I stepped outside anywhere for a month or so after that little incident!

Susan - We've also had a rash of supposed sightings of cougars in our neck of the woods, too. No alligators yet though. Whew! (See? It could be worse.)

Sue - I really do think that wolf knew I was no threat to him because I treated him just like I would a dog . . . initially. I guess I emitted only curious, friendly vibes!

Lisa - Thank you very much!

Mama Pea said...

Patty - Never hurts to be a little on the cautious side!

Sparkless - A healthy timber wolf is truly a beautiful animal. I think I'd rather meet one of them in the woods than a cougar!

judy - Can't remember exactly what I had on that day but I'm pretty sure it wasn't a red, hooded cloak! ;o}

APG - We have both the coyotes and wolves up here. The coyotes are called brush wolves most of the time. The timber wolves seem to be more loners while the brush wolves are found/seen in packs. We've known of pet dogs being killed by both wolves and coyotes but I'm pretty sure it's the timber wolves that bring down deer most of the time. Not an expert on the subject though.

Amy Dingmann said...

Beautiful re-telling of this encounter! I remember a couple years ago when we were up at the family cabin (a bit north of where you live) and I was washing dishes in a bin (no running water) and I looked up to see four wolves walking in the driveway right about 20 feet in front of me. I tried to get my family's attention to show them (they were so beautiful) but I couldn't get any words out so it just came out "Ahh! Ah! Ahhhhh!" So now, everyone teases me and asks if I've seen any Ah-Ahs lately. :) I'm glad your encounter was retold it so well! :)

Trailshome said...

What a wonderful experience. It's like looking wild right in the eyes-and finding it calm and open. Good for you for not freaking out. What an excellent memory. Thank you for sharing with us.

Mama Pea said...

Mama Tea - Oh, what a thrill it must have been to see the FOUR wolves together like that! I can just imagine you not being able to get an intelligent word out!

Trailshome - I really didn't have time (until it was over!) to be frightened! And I think it goes to prove that unless a wild animals is provoked in some way, they have no desire to harm us.

Erin said...

I loved this story the first time, and loved reading it again! Get to work on that book LOL! Isn't it amazing how TALL those timberwolves are up close? Easy to mistake from a distance but as you get close to one you really start to wish you had an extra set of clothing, because you will need to change LOL!!!

Leigh said...

Whew what a story. No one can every accuse us homesteaders of leading dull and boring lives!

Mama Pea said...

Erin - Yup, when you see one close enough, there's no way you can confuse them with a coyote or big German Shepherd!

Leigh - Isn't that the truth? And it all seems to happen as we go about our daily lives doing what needs to be done.