To start with, I love the wolves. Ever since 5th grade when I read the fictional glory stories, then I followed David Mech’s research, just because I was interested. I worried about the wolf population on Isle Royale, I hated that people would fly low in airplanes in Alaska and shoot them up, I even used to visit the MN Zoo to watch them (although the pacing in captivity bothered me more than anything else).
Up here, the howling gives me happy shivers, especially when it echoes over the ice. I’ve liked sharing Round Lake with the covert pack of 6 including 2 pups last season (we listened to them learn to howl). Last winter in the middle of the night one howled so close to that I checked on the kids—my first thought was that one of them was weirdly crying in terrible pain. This summer our guests spotted them more often than ever. Once a lanky pup approached my car and sniffed all the tires.
This fall, the sightings have become even more common. My dad saw one by the showerhouse---and it didn’t startle and run away fast enough. Denali gets her dander up and runs around in circles more often on our road.
Last week, I drove into the dumpster site and snuck up on two of them. I watched quietly, wished for my camera, then I decided that it was time to unload my trash into the dumpster. So I honked. No response. I rolled down my window and yelled. Nothing. They were less than 10 feet away. I opened my door and stamped my foot and growled. Then one of them looked at me long and hard enough to illicit prickles on the back of my neck. I could detect no aggression, no submission in the look, just a stare. I banged the dumpster around. I finally had to unload my trash and they still weren’t fazed by me. I was trying not to look scared, trying to be the Alpha. They just weren’t so charming nosing around the dumpster sight.
A couple of days ago Denali and I were running where they leave scat in the middle of MY road, which is starting to annoy me. Denali turned a corner and hollered. Differently than her raven bark, or her treed squirrel frustrated yelp. So I whistled. As she came around the corner to me, the wolf that was following her bit her on the tail. I thought that was bad form. She turned on the wolf, and my first thought was that I was going to have to kick them apart (still thinking domesticated dog fight, not wild wolf vs. lab) but as I ran forward instinctively waving my arms and yelling “no”, the wolf slunk off to the river. Denali wasn’t really hurt, and I think she was secretly relieved that I wouldn’t let her chase it. A minute later when it crossed the road ahead of us to sneak off into the woods, she wasn’t even serious about the chase. Obviously she’d rather stick with me, Alpha that I had just proven myself to be.
Now I’m trying to figure out how to claim my territory back. I’ve ordered an airhorn—like the boats have. This I figure will cause them some pain (in the ears) at the same time that it might startle them. Several people in town recommend firing a gun to scare them off. First of all, if I carry a gun around I’ll probably shoot myself in the foot. Secondly, I don’t really want to hurt these guys, even if they’re not behaving as respectfully and regally as Amaroq, the hero from Julie of the Wolves. I just want them to find their OWN territory. I think Denali will be OK as long as she sticks by me, but I’m not really willing to put my joyfully bounding dog on a leash either.. She leads a very happy life, and that is worth it. I’ll just have to wait for the airhorn.