19 November 2014

Guest Post: Close Encounter (of the Wolf Kind)

Our friend Justine, is an experienced outdoor adventurer.  She has logged countless hours in the bush on dirt bike, horseback and sled.  If you are looking to tour the Sandilands, Justine is the guide you want!   Justine is an  avid musher and enjoys the companionship of her canines.   Recently she ran into a canine that she didn't enjoy so much,  a wolf!  We thought the story was one worth sharing.  Justine obliged.     Here is her story:

Close Encounter of the Wolf Kind 

Story and photos by Justine Swaka 

My “pups” and I love to get out to bikejor/scooter/sled and hike at least 3-4 times per week.  Our favourite trails are out at the Sandilands Provincial Forest, in Manitoba.  Here the dogs can run off leash and have the opportunity to smell all the great smells of the forest and swim in the many ponds. 
We’ve come across many critters in the years that we’ve gone out there, including squirrels, sharp tail grouse, deer, bears, skunks and porcupines, among others.  Up until recently though, we had never crossed paths with a wolf. 

This particular day the dogs were off leash and not only did I have my three dogs, but also my son’s dog.  As I hiked down the fireguard road the dogs were off in the nearby bush and ponds.  I noticed a large animal up ahead on the trail and initially thought it may be a deer. 
However, as I walked closer and closer I noticed that it did not run away as the deer usually do. 
Instead, it turned to face me and stood his ground.  It was then I realized that it was a large wolf. 
As I slowly walked towards it, I yelled and started banging my hiking poles together to get it to run off into the woods. 
Instead of running away it did the opposite; it came trotting towards me with what looked like paws the size of dinner plates! 
I continued to yell and bang my poles and hoping against hope that the dogs would not notice it. 
As luck would have it we were walking upwind of the wolf and the dogs did not scent it, and they were too distracted by the scents of the bush and water to even notice the wolf. 
I continued to slowly walk towards it knowing if I turned around and walked in the opposite direction that it could very well start following us.  I didn’t want it to see us as prey and although I only saw this one wolf there was a likelihood that he had his pack mates somewhere close by.  Eventually he did slink off back into the woods, but on my way back to my vehicle I kept a close eye on what was behind us.  He definitely was not afraid of humans and was in no hurry to go his own way. 
During this time I had kept my husband informed of what was happening.  Needless to say he was worried about us getting safely back to the car which was an hour’s walk away. 
All the years I had been going out to the bush, I had never really felt the need to have any kind of protection.  After this encounter though, I have taken the advice to at least get some bear spray. 
The worry about the safety of my pack remains though…what would I have done if they had scented the wolf and run after it?  Though they have good recall, would the scent of the wolf and the chase have been enough to override the command to come back to me? 
It’s a worrisome thought that remains with me now as we head out on our adventures.