Ranger Tim is back at his soul-home, Lake Superior, and I am envious.
On the way in, about a half-mile from the highway, I rounded a bend and in the distance made out a tall grey shape stationary in the middle of the track. Though I’d never seen one before in the wild, I knew right away it was a timber wolf. I was sort of half expecting it, since Rick and I had seen spoor when we drove in earlier in the week.
I shuffled forward slowly until I was some 75 yards away, and he ambled forward a bit too, wondering what I was, apparently. We stood like that for about 5 minutes, just sizing one another up. He was the size of a large German Shepherd but with a wooly, delicate coat. I pulled out my camera and he immediately bolted back, like a Guatemalan cur after you’ve picked up a rock. He stopped again a couple dozen yards up the road, then when I began shuffling forward again, he moseyed casually into the trees.
I guess the thing that surprised me most was how mundane the encounter was. Some of the more romantic literature on wolves talks about something like a spark of atavistic recognition that runs between the species in this kind of one-on-one. Hairs standing up on your neck as the hunter-gatherer race memory kicks in! But all I could think was how much this critter came across like nothing more or less than a shy but dignified domestic dog. I understand now better than ever that the wolf genome lives on in dogs, and that all those centuries of selective breeding have only changed the veneer.