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Ren De

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Ha!  An amazing fit. Couldn’t be more perfect! I’m not sure if it is permitted here but because it was a partial inspiration for this work (along wth Robert Bateman’s beautiful painting of wolves) I would like to share a story about a personal encounter with these animals. Would this be breaking any rules?

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3 minutes ago, Ren De said:

I would like to share a story about a personal encounter with these animals. Would this be breaking any rules?

I can’t see why it would be! It’s not like going off topic in a ‘Questions’ or ‘Bugs’ thread, which can be quite distracting both for later visitors and for the user who created the thread.

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Thanks, Alfred. 

A vignette from a wildly improbable life...

When the children had all run out of the school to the freedom of the late fall weekend Sandy and I put our gear into the freighter canoe in the water beside the small dock below our house. Using the five horsepower motor we started upriver to meet up with the other larger boat which towed two more canoes.

The purpose of the run upriver was to bring back meat to share with each other and others in the village.

There were eight in our party. Our companions included two local couples and another couple who worked at the school like Sandy and I. The days had grown short and the hours of remaining daylight were few. It had been spitting snow all afternoon and the temperature was chilly. We had no idea we were headed for a close encounter with a predator feared by almost all the animals in the boreal forest.

When we reached the place where we turned north off the Berens River and up the Etomami the sun was low in the sky. After a few more miles of travel we entered a large bowl below a waterfall. To go further we would need to unload the boat and canoes and portage over the falls. It took about 45 minutes to bring everything to the top of the falls. We left the larger boat moored to a clump of willows at the bottom of the falls. Then we started to load all the packs, tents, sleeping bags, axes, firearms, grub boxes, and other gear into the canoes that were tied up parallel to the shore. The other couple from the school had brought their new puppy with them and it scampered about sniffing the gear and the surrounding bush.

After a quick gulp of tea from a thermos we settled into the canoes and pushed away from the shore. We paddled in a much quieter landscape without the purr of the motors. After about 200 meters we began to hear a distant high-pitched whine and howl coming from the landing we had just left. It was the puppy who (in our rush to get back in the water) had been left alone on the shelf of rock by the river’s edge. We called out to Ray, our school maintenance man, that his dog had been left behind. As both he and I turned back to pick up the small dog another deeper, more powerful sound resonated through the dusk. It was a full-throated howl of a timber wolf. Henry in the lead boat shouted to Ray that if he wanted to keep his dog he had better hurry up.

Spray flew from our paddles as we dashed back downriver to retrieve the puppy. When we scraped to a  stop alongside the rock Ray scooped the shivering puppy into his canoe.

As we back-paddled out into the current again we could see dark shapes moving just inside the dense bush beyond the landing.

The howling continued even after we had pointed the bows of the canoes upriver and began working to catch up with Henry.

For the next three-quarters of an hour we occasionally heard the wolves moving through the heavy brush along the river although we did not hear any more howls. They were following us.

There was just enough light left to set up our camp and then the ladies were to stay at the campsite while the men took two canoes and went further north to try to get far enough from the wolves to hunt moose. Henry doubted that there would be any moose nearby since the sound of the howling would have had the moose too nervous to leave dense cover.

The sky was still overcast but with a full moon above the clouds we could still see both river banks. We moved almost silently with blankets draped over the gunnels of the canoe muffling the occasional scrape or tap of the paddles. We would paddle for fifteen or twenty minutes and then just drift listening for the splash of a moose stepping in the water. We used a home-made moose call, made from a large tin can and a string, as we drifted. After a couple of hours we had not seen nor heard any sign of a moose so we turned back and paddling with the current we soon arrived at the camp to find the ladies extremely relieved to have us with them.

Is seems that the whines and smell of the puppy so attracted the wolves that they had stayed just outside the light of the fire and were heard crashing back and forth from one side of the camp to the other, and occasionally howling in a way that so unnerved one of the ladies that she refused to put down the rifle that she was tightly gripping. As she swung the gun from one side to the other following the sound of the wolves, her companions dodged and ducked to avoid the muzzle. They said they were more fearful of being shot than they were of the wolves.

But the wolves were not to have the midnight snack they had hoped for. The puppy had been held in the arms of one of the ladies for the whole time to keep it from wandering far enough for a wolf to dash in and take it. And after the men returned to the camp the appearance of four more humans seemed to discourage the wolves and they faded into the darkness.

We headed back to the village the next day with no meat, but I carried instead a rare and breathtaking experience that I will always cherish.

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