Years ago I was on a hike looking for gold along Coho Creek on an island in southeast Alaska’s. I walked out of the forest and stayed as if frozen. Less than 20 steps away I saw a large grey wolf trapped in the mud.
Confused and frightened by my appearance the beast shuffled backwards. Only then did I notice it was a bitch and her teats were full of milk. There had to be a nest of hungry puppies waiting for their mother somewhere near.
Judging by how she moved, I estimated that she had only been stuck for a few days. That would mean that her pups would still be alive. I thought If I freed her, she might become aggressive and attack me, so I decided to look for her pups on my own. I looked around me to see if I could find any tracks. It wasn’t long before I discovered paw prints in the direction of the mud in the snow.
Four little puppies appeared
The track ran half a mile into the forest, across a stone heap, and there was the nest. Wolf pups are shy and observant and I had no hope of luring them out, but I had to try. I imitated the high sound of a mother wolf as good as I could. No reaction. But when I tried again, four little puppies appeared.
They were out for a few weeks at most. I stuck out my hands and as a reflex they started nibbling on my fingers. Maybe it was the hunger that helped them get over their natural fear. I put them one by one in my jute bag and started to descend.
When the mother wolf saw me, she stood up straight. Did she smoke the air of her cubs? I let go of the pups, which ran straight at her and immediately began to slurp on her nipples.
Now what? I wondered. The mother wolf suffered the fall, but when I came one step closer, she let a threatening growl out of her throat. Now that she wanted to protect her cubs, she became combative, although she needed food of her own.
A piece of meat for the mother wolf
I walked back to the Coho brook and saw a deer leg sticking out of a snow mountain. I cut out a piece of meat and let the rest fall back into the natural freezer. Armed with the deer meat I came back to the wolf and whispered in a reassuring tone: “Okay mother, you’ve earned your supper, but only if you stop growling”. She smelled it inquisitively and scared it away.
With some branches I quickly wove myself a shelter and soon I fell asleep. At dawn it was four lint balls that sniffed at my face and hands and woke me up. I looked at the irritated mother wolf. If I could gain her trust, I thought, there was hope.
The days that followed I did my best, spoke calmly to her and threw deer meat at her again and again. Occasionally I played with the puppies. Little by little I crawled closer, but in such a way that I wouldn’t get within the length of her necklace. The big animal never let me out of her sight.
The fifth evening the pups stewed towards me. At least I had their trust, but I slowly lost the courage for the mother. Suddenly I saw her tail wagging a little. I took one step closer. She remained motionless. My heart was pounding in my throat when I sat down at eight feet from her. Her jaws could break my arm… or my neck. I wrapped a blanket around me, but I couldn’t sleep.
The squeaking sound of the puppies
The squeaking sound of the puppies woke me up. I leaned forward and stroked them. The mother wolf stiffened. “Good morning, friends,” I said quietly. Put a hand on the sore leg of the wolf. She squeezed her eyes together, but made no threatening movement. This can’t be true, I thought.
The claws of the fall had grabbed two of her toes. They were quite swollen. Her leg would heal if I set her free. I drew strength and the trap jumped open, the wolf jumped free. She stumbled around to relieve the hurt leg. I suspected she would leave with her pups in the forest, but nothing could be further from the truth. She approached me and stopped at my elbow, sniffed my hand and started licking my fingers. I stood stunned. This went against everything I had heard about wolves. Yet it all felt so natural.
After a while she made a move into the forest, but after a few steps she stood still and looked back. She looked at me, as if to say, “Are you coming?” “Shall I go with you, girl?” I asked. I picked up my stuff tense and we left. After a few miles along the Coho brook we climbed Kupreanof Mountain until we reached a mountain pasture. Along the edge of the forest there was a pack of wolves.
When I made my camp, the wolves were moving around. I saw their silhouettes and their eyes reflected in the light of the moon and my campfire. I wasn’t afraid. After all, they were mainly curious