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An Alaskan wolf tale

February 21, 2017

wolf9

The illumination from the normally bright security lights was devoured by the thick cold fog and was unable to even cast a shadow from the horse corrals surrounding it. I sat, gun in hand, in the middle of the yard on my four wheeler trying vainly to keep watch on the fleeting ghost like appearances of the horses. It was reminiscent of an old black and white horror movie, with the dense fog pulsing in intensity and the nearby howls of starving wolves. At different moments and from different directions one loan wolf crunched down teeth bared would appear and as I fired…. it vanished as if it never existed.

I had worked for Les Cobb, at Lost Creek Ranch, as an assistant hunting guide for two years now and because he was away working at a gold mine he called and asked me if I could go out to his ranch and help his wife keep some wolf packs from killing his animals. I made the 130 mile journey out from Fairbanks to find his wife Norma looking exhausted from her nightly wolf patrol.

Normally wolf packs do not join forces to attack their prey but because of the numerous forest fires raging they had pushed a number of packs in the direction of the ranch. Add to that the fact that there was a good number of animals at the ranch and because the now starving wolves had all picked up the horses scent a number of packs had joined forces to go in for the kill. Norma had notified Alaska fish and game but they did not believe her when she told them that it was more than one wolf pack attacking her ranch, and would not send any people out to help keep them at bay. Apparently wolf packs joining forces to attack is relatively unheard of in Alaska.

So hear I sat at six in the morning, beyond tired, feeling cold and damp shooting at ghosts in the mist. I could tell day was dawning because the light from the security light now appeared even weaker as the fog itself brightened with the coming sunrise. I could now see maybe 20 feet away from my position and could clearly see the fencing surrounding the horses. Like anyone who stood guard for an entire night at times my fixed stair would cross over to an awaking sleep….

For some reason a colder than normal chill went down my spine and as I turned to ward it off I was shocked at the sight of a wolf not 5 feet away. In that instant the squalid, teeth bared wolf looked to be as big as a full grown bear and for that brief instant we both froze and just stared at each other. Yes I know not the actions one would expect from an Alaskan hunting guide, but with almost 24 hours of no sleep it could be expected.

Time seemed to be suspended and what surely was but seconds seemed like minutes before I raised my 357 and fired. In that same instant the wolf seemed to disappear and re-materialize on the bank of the stream 10 foot further away. I switched over to my shotgun and fired twice more as he headed down the embankment to the stream.The sounds of my firing brought Norma from the house and she arrived in time to see the wolf as he crossed the stream and melt into the dense brush.

We may have been disappointed
that no blood
or sign of a dead wolf was found
but we were content
that at least for another night
the animals of
Lost Creek Ranch
were safe.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. Del Hoskins permalink
    February 21, 2017 3:45 pm

    ole Les. Remember him well in the day….. Yea it was a hoot in the Eureka area…. really loved the Hoot too. ( Hutlinana)….. What a beautiful place back then………. Be well Pete….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jon permalink
    February 21, 2017 7:12 pm

    Good story Pete. Has the makings of a short story from a book of a collection of westerns.
    Curious, where is / was the Lost Creek Ranch?

    Liked by 2 people

    • February 22, 2017 8:13 am

      John Lost Creek Ranch was between the mining community of Eureka, on the Elliott near Manley Hot Springs, and the native village of Rampart, on the Yukon river.

      Like

  3. Kris permalink
    February 21, 2017 11:20 pm

    I got chills as I read this. Phew!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dwight permalink
    February 22, 2017 3:03 am

    Great story Pete! Please do more!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. February 22, 2017 6:32 am

    Love the story. I could feel the chills running down my spine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 22, 2017 6:33 am

      BTW, is that a stock photo or one you took. Pretty eerie looking

      Like

    • February 22, 2017 8:18 am

      Michael as I was writing it I felt the same way. The wolf photo is a stock photo of a real wolf that I retouched in Photoshop.

      Like

  6. February 22, 2017 6:57 am

    Really conflicted feelings regarding this post and the entire situation. Wolves are apex predators just as are the bears and we humans. We all eat the same foods and we try to survive in many of the same areas. I admit my experiences with wolves have been limited (within 10 feet of a collared alpha male at Teklanika Campground in Denali NP&P and I watched members of a pack in Kachemak Bay State Park wend their way through the boreal forest in which I was camped overnight) but I also feel wolves get a very bad rap because of their history of competition with we humans. We raise what they consider prey animals right in their neighborhood and then get bent out of shape when the wolves hunt and kill said prey animals..?!? Something just doesn’t feel ‘right’ about the situation. The best answer would be for us humans to remain largely removed from the territories of such apex predators and certainly not to raise potential prey animals within their ranges but this isn’t the ‘American way’. Wish we had the ‘deflector screens’ of “Star Trek” fame…

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 22, 2017 8:20 am

      I have found Bill that of my few live encounters with wolves none were out to “get me”. Though in this particular instance one has to wonder what the wolf was up to coming so close to me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • February 22, 2017 8:51 am

        Sometimes I believe they are just curious so as long as they haven’t had negative encounters with humans they can and will approach. The collared alpha male I mentioned in my earlier post just appeared early one morning at the Tek campground. As I’m virtually always the first one up – I was tent camping with two other folks – I was at the back of our rental Explorer prepping breakfast. As was normal for my routine I had water heating on my MSR Whisper-Lite stove and was rooting around in the cargo section of the Explorer for instant coffee and oatmeal. I found the former, saw the water was boiling, poured a bit into my stainless steel vacuum cup and added a couple of tablespoons of coffee. I turned back to the rear of the Explorer, finally found the oatmeal and turned back to the water. At that instant I saw a gorgeous male wolf with startling yellow/golden eyes standing no more than ten feet from me with its muzzle raised slightly; I think it was curious about the coffee. I froze and noticed it was wearing a collar; in talking with a pro-fo later in the day I learned it was an alpha male from a pack living just southwest of the campground. The Denali wildlife techs had radio collared it to track the pack’s movements. I remember being startled but having no fear; like you I froze in place. Then I realized this would make a great picture and so slowly turned back to the Explorer and grabbed my camera. When I turned around the wolf was no where in sight. This happened during my first trip to Alaska and my first visit to Denali NP&P. Little wonder I proceeded to fall in love with the Park in particular and Alaska in general!

        Liked by 1 person

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