Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Rising to the Occasion of Survival

"I knew it wasn't Joey [companion dog]. He [wolf] was baring his teeth and snarling, and ready to pounce. I was just kicking myself. I never go into the bush without my gun."
"Joey has had quite a bit of experience with charging bears. Usually, they take right off. The wolf didn't back down."
"He [the wolf] started pacing and crossing my path. He started directing me, basically. He kept forcing me to go further away from the road."
"Nobody in their right mind would walk through what I walked through. [It] was starting to get closer again, getting braver again. It was a long, long night."
"It was hard to concentrate and make decisions. At one point I stopped and did some prayers around those mosquitoes and asked my ancestors to help me forget about them."
"Out of desperation I decided to walk towards a cub that had been separated from her mom. They were a fair distance apart from each other… I was hoping that the mama bear would find the wolf that was also behind me before I reached the cub."
"Usually bears are pretty quiet, but she must have been panicked or worried about her baby [bear cub]. I just hoped like hell I wouldn't come between them. But I figured I'd rather die with a bear than die with a wolf. I knew they were fighting and I had no idea who was winning and I didn't care."
Joanne Barnaby, Hay River, North West Territory, Canada
Joanne Barnaby, left, reunited with her friend Tammy Caudron after fending off a wolf.
Photo provided by Joanne Barnaby     Joanne Barnaby, left, reunited with her friend Tammy Caudron after fending off a wolf.
"[When you're collecting mushrooms] you're usually squatted down. Most animals respond when you're taller than they are."
"It's not unusual for wolves to follow somebody. Most often this happens in the springtime when wolves have their pups."
"They're escalating the person away from the den site. From the wolf's view, it's not intended to be overly aggressive."
Paul Paquet, biologist, adjunct professor, University of Victoria
Two friends out for a leisure day of mushroom picking, drove about an hour from where they live in Hay River to find the perfect place to pick mushrooms. What could be more natural than to take advantage of the abundance of natural food within relatively easy access to home? Set out with a friend with like intentions, and don't forget to invite your Rottweiler-terrier mix, since he'd have a ball roaming and snuffling about in the woods.

So that's just what Joanne Barnaby and Tammy Caudron did last week, looking forward to having a good mushroom hunt, fresh air, sun and exercise. They did have all of that, and more. The women decided in late afternoon to part so they could find areas they hadn't already depleted of their mushroom treasure. Alone with her dog, Joanne eventually decided to round up what she already had and return to where the truck was parked.

And that's when she heard the unmistakable warning sound of a growl that hadn't emanated from Joey. And saw a thin wolf standing before her, looking threatening and obviously not prepared to let her pass in peace. Her mind went into overdrive, thinking 'Where the hell's my gun?" Joey responded as a faithful dog protective of his human would, attempting to fight off the wolf. When Joanne tried to walk away quietly, the wolf would have none of it. She thought the wolf was intent on separating her from her dog, then realized it was its den the wolf was intent on separating her from.

Dr. Paquet who has studied wolf ecology for 45 years said that many human-animal confrontations occur at a time when people are busy picking or harvesting natural food in a forest. It was his opinion that wolves are more prone to putting space between themselves and humans under most circumstances. It is his contention that on this occasion the woman had inadvertently wandered too close to the wolf's den, and its reaction was to protect newborn pups from the presence of humans.

The pathway toward where the truck was parked was closed off to her, and Joanne Barnaby found herself stuck between fear of attack and avoidance of directly challenging the wolf, so she and Joey kept moving away from the wolf, toward increasingly rough terrain. By this time she was too far removed from the vicinity where she had left her friend to call out and too distant into the bush for a cellphone signal. She was tired, hot and thirsty, and mosquito-maddened.

She fell on her back across a log where most of the mushrooms she had collected tumbled, dispersing. But she did locate her knife along with an empty beer can. It was a cold night, she said later, and "the mosquitoes were driving me bananas". The wolf remained nearby and she felt it could sense her exhaustion. In the small morning hours she heard something; the sound of a bear followed by a higher-pitched sound; a bear and its cub, the mother searching for the baby after a separation.

This led her to move toward the cub-sound, and she could hear the two separate bear calls becoming louder. Then she heard a crashing noise which she took to be the bear and the wolf colliding with one another, and fighting. This was the cue she was hoping for, and she and Joey ran as fast as their fear and fatigue permitted. Eventually they found themselves at a lake where the empty beer can came in handy.

After an ordeal of 12 hours' duration they reached the highway where a Parks Canada worker helped her get back home.

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