I was writing about what you should do if you and your dogs were ever confronted by wolves, but I thought
it was too outlandish to post. Then I saw that movie 'The Grey' about plane crash victims in Alaska being
stalked and killed by wolves, and realized my stuff is mild compared to that bit of fiction.
Now that wolves are back in the West, it’s good to know what you can do to defend yourself if you’re flanked by a large pack, seriously. Ranchers in several of the western states have reported their dogs being killed or attacked by wolves. If wolves are lingering around, they’re likely after your dogs, not you, even though it may feel like they’re after you. They’re trying to figure out how to get to your dogs without getting injured or killed. At camp you may hear them at night for several nights in a row, circling and howling in the dark of night. This is more common in
Canada and than in the lower forty-eight. Alaska
Though rare, wolf attacks on people’s dogs do occur, but them circling around you and your dog is more common than someone might think. It’s happened to me three times, once in the
Yukon, once in southeast , and once in the Brooks Range of Alaska. Each time was a pack encounter. Solitary wolves are usually more apprehensive and flee from things that wouldn’t scare a pack. Alaska
Wolves don’t like dogs. They see them as competition for food, a blockage to accessing food (like a dog guarding cattle), or as food source themselves. Sometimes during your encounter, you will be astonished how lackadaisical and fearless the wolves appear, like they own the world. And against all other animals in their range except for people with weapons and perhaps the largest bear, they do. They have much larger brains than dogs and know how to kill in a coordinated effort using all the members of their pack.
Just remember, don’t let your dogs get away from you in this situation. If you do they’re dead. The wolves will try to lure them away, acting timid and docile. And if they get them away from you they might attack them and you won’t be able to defend them. A wolf pack can be very persistent. If they wanted, and you had no protection, a wolf pack could kill you pretty quickly. This is another good reason to stay close to your dog, so he can help you like you would help him. In
I prefer a long tether, so my dog will have room to maneuver if wolves close in, but not be able to get away from me. Alaska
The only time I saw my first Airedale terrier Jonny afraid was camping in the
in early May. Airedales are supposed to be completely fearless, bear and mountain lion dogs. I had driven down a dirt road off the main highway and was camped about thirty yards from my little truck. I heard several howls off in the distance and assumed the wolves were organizing themselves and planning what to do about me. Minutes later I hear the pattering of footsteps around my tent in the gloomy light. Wolves seem to always check you out for awhile before moving in. They’re good at assessing the danger, so if you think you’re vulnerable; the wolves will probably figure out that you are. Northwest Territories
I had Jonny in my tent with me and after hearing the rustling of wolves outside for several minutes, I stuck him outside to see what was going on. I figured that was his job. “Go check it out,” I said to him, and he went out a bit reluctantly, which was rare for his breed. I think he knew already that something wasn’t right. He walked out, turned the corner of my tent, and disappeared into the darkness. I waited for twenty seconds, silent and listening. Then suddenly he shot back into my tent like a rocket. Seeing him so scared freaked me out completely. With no bear spray or gun, I was shaking uncontrollably, figuring I’d be killed soon. I didn’t quite know what to do and my guard dog was looking toward me for protection. This was my first wolf encounter and I could hardly believe they were getting this aggressive and this close. All I had ever read about wolves was they never attack people. It never occurred to me that they would attack my dog even if I was right with him.
After about fifteen seconds of indecision, I sprinted out of my tent, ran the thirty yards through the trees, and opened the driver’s side door of my truck. Before I could get in, and I was moving very rapidly to do it, Jonny had leaped in before me and was already sitting on the passenger side on top of some of my food and gear. I cracked my window and could hear the wolves howling off in the distance about fifty yards away, circling, until finally moving on. I waited for two hours for full light before taking my tent down and driving off.
Remember, stay close to your dogs to protect them. Unless you have very large dogs like Irish wolfhounds or Tibetan mastiffs, and at least as many dogs as there are wolves, your dogs don’t stand a chance without you. If you don’t have dogs, wolves likely won’t molest you. But if you do have dogs (and no weapon) and say hypothetically a wolf attacks you, you don’t stand a chance without them.