A Chance Encounter With Four Arctic Wolves This Morning In The Northern Yukon
This morning Peter and I left Tombstone Territorial Park and headed north on The Dempster Highway, through the northern Yukon towards the Arctic circle.
At seven this morning the Dempster was void of any traffic and a recent rain storm had left it muddy and very slippery. The area is extremely remote, surrounded by mountain ranges in every direction.
At kilometre 170, I saw a face peek out of the forest on the road side. I instantly recognized it. “Stop the car!” I said to Peter. I opened the car door and looked back. About 20 m behind the car, a tall, brownish, peach and grey coloured wolf walked out of the forest.
He stopped and looked at me and then loped down the highway toward me. I shot as many pictures as I could. As he came closer and closer, I was wary; I do not like to tempt wildlife. I stayed beside the open car, inside the open door. The wolf was calm and not threatening; he was checking me out (the area is absolute wilderness, no human settlement for at least a two hour drive north or south along the Dempster and no east/west settlements for thousands of kilometres). He walked within twenty feet of me and then calmly stepped back into the bush.
I cannot fully describe in words what our brief meeting meant to me–I was in complete awe and wonder–it was an ultimate surprise, and a satisfying meeting. I have worked at preserving wolves in my home province of BC; they are always close to my heart.
(above) Pup trotting through forest
(below) One pup is lying on the forest floor while the other stands behind (ear on right of tree)
It seems wolves truly are my spirit animal: only five kilometres down the road, a small grey creature darted in front of the car. Again, I shouted, “Stop the car!”
Peter said, “It was just a fox.” (we love foxes but we’d already seen several on our Yukon journey).
I said, “No, it was a wolf pup” (somehow, I knew instantly what it was even though it had already disappeared into the forest).
We stopped and I opened my car door where I’d seen it vanish into the woods.
The pup was easy to spot in forest: only ten feet into the bush, it was relaxing, snuggled up with another identical looking grey pup. Together they watched me with curious golden eyes. I attempted to take photos quickly and safely from right beside the open car door.
Unbeknownst to me, Peter was watching the mother wolf watching me–he thought I was taking a picture of her! Yet, I had no idea she was there. I was taking photos of what I thought were two lone wolf pups! The pups grew restless, stood up and then trotted further into the bush. It wasn’t until I showed Peter the pictures of the two pups that he told me, “I never saw them! I thought you were taking pictures of the big, adult wolf watching you!”
Below–lone wolf retreats back into forest:
Wow, I am so lucky that the mother was not threatened by me as I had no idea she was there! I assumed that there must be an adult around, so I stayed right beside the car but I had no idea that she was right there, watching me the entire time!
The wolves were calm, not threatened by me and yet not overly interested in me either–much like the historical relationships of humans with wolves that I have read about. It is possible that the wolves have never had contact with humans before me. The area where we spotted them is in the middle of vast mountain wilderness–prime caribou country.
We drove on and about fifty kilometres further down he highway we came upon a huge grizzly, who was running down the road, and then disappeared into the forest (before I could snap any pictures).
That was my unbelievable morning today. Now, after four nights in a tiny back country tent, we reside at Eagle Plains Hotel,Yukon. We will head to the Arctic Circle momentarily.
This Yukon adventure has already surpassed my wildest dreams–I feel as though I am absorbing all this wildness into my being and savouring every moment. I will post more of our adventures each time we find wifi as our Arctic road trip continues…