In Love of Wolves – #Amwriting #timetravel #wilderness #wolves #FindingMyHighlanderSeries

In Love of Wolves – #Amwriting #timetravel #wilderness #wolves #FindingMyHighlanderSeries

I love wolves – and Labradors, of course. As you may already be aware, I’m weaving a small amount of wolf lore into my present book, My Colonial Highlander. A recent research foray on You Tube reminded me of an experience I had about 30 years ago while camping deep in Yellowstone National Park’s wilderness.

Morning had arrived. Mist slowly lifted in long tendrils through the trees and off the distant meadow. I took my then Labrador retriever, Patience, for a walk. We followed the stream near our camp for several hundred yards. On one side, the woods encroached on the water’s edge. On our side of the stream, a wide expanse of grassland edged with gnarly clumps of shrubbery gave way to towering pine forest spreading to the horizon and up the mountainside. Suddenly, an animal jumped out of yellowing grass that rose two to three feet high. He was perhaps fifteen feet away. At first, I thought it was a coyote. But then he stopped his hunt to observe the intruders, stepping closer to the path, parallel to us.

It only took a moment to realize this bulkier magnificent canine stood too tall and exhibited far more self-assurance than any coyote I’d ever encountered. And I’ve encountered a lot of coyote over the years. They are everywhere in California and despite a wariness of humans, they live in close proximity to us.

Wolves on the other hand, are extremely wary of humans. They weigh 65 to 120 pounds, while coyotes weigh 20 to 50 pounds. Also, wolves have somewhat rounded ears while coyotes have taller, pointed ears. Wolves have a broader, shorter snout and coyotes have a narrow more pointed nose. All these features might be hard to discern from a distance, but up close I easily recognized the differences.

I’ve seen wolves before, although never this close in the wild. Patience (my Labrador, so appropriately named,) accepted my stilling hand signal and didn’t move a muscle other than a tentative lift of her nose to catch the animal’s scent and the raised hackles at her neck and down her back. I should mention that raised hackles in a dog doesn’t necessarily indicate aggression. It often signifies excitement, fear, anxiety, or anger. I’m not sure which emotions Patience displayed then but I imagined it was some combination of the first three.

After what seemed a long standoff, that possibly amounted to one or two minutes while my beating heart probably made more noise than the gurgling stream, the wolf turned away as though we were of no consequence and resumed his hunt. Bounding through the grass, disappearing then leaping high to pounce, mesmerizing in his movement. After another three or four minutes the wolf snared his prey. A plump, juicy vole (I think.) He turned toward us once again his kill clenched between enormous bright teeth then moved into the wilderness taking a somewhat sideways tack, surreptitiously monitoring any movement we might make.

Bold, assured of his place and unwilling to consider us a threat, he didn’t dash or gallop or run. He merely sauntered in a dismissing manner as though to say; “this is my kingdom.” Other than the grizzly bear, the wolf felt so right, so necessary to that place, while I had never felt more alien in my life.

Patience and I remained rooted to the spot. Two foreigners visiting a wild world, slowly taking root in the quiet morning light. We waited perhaps another 5 minutes. Amazingly, Patience stayed still, as willing an observer as her human guide. When no movement disturbed the trees or brush where our wolf had disappeared, we returned to camp, my heart thudding loudly in my ears, Patience glancing behind nervously as we wove are way back along the stream.

I wish I had photos but didn’t take a camera with me that morning. This was long before the ubiquitous cellphone/camera that records every moment of our daily lives.

I suspect my attempt to capture the extraordinary emotions of that singular moment fail in all regards. It was by far one of my more memorable wilderness experiences and I hope you’ve enjoyed the story.

This YouTube video, although far different from my story, reminded me of that long-ago adventure.

Most wolf lure we know is either inaccurate at best, or intentionally misleading. At any rate, I hope you enjoy the video and the story of Romeo. I’d love to hear your comments about this blog or your own wilderness experiences.


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