I’d never seen a wolf before. Never in the south, and never in the Arctic. I’ve been eagerly hoping to see one ever since I was a small child. So it was with great joy and overly confident enthusiasm that I saw and photographed the wolves of Eureka this week.
This area is famous for having a number of dens nearby but for the last several years I’ve always missed them. A few days ago I was out stacking empty fuel barrels when I saw three white flashes dart across my field of vision. Attracted by the noise, the three wolves and come to inspect the new local noisemaker. They approached cautiously, warily, but once it became apparent that I wasn’t going to eat them they comfortably settled in, sat down, and stared at me.
Other stations in the Arctic sometimes have problems with their wolves. Out there, the local packs have been fed by humans for a number years and have become accustomed to receiving food. So when someone walks outside and they don’t have food, the wolves bite, and the human spends the next several days getting rabies injections in their ass. In Eureka, there’s been little to no feeding of the wolves (at least by official accounts). This means our resident population acts less like spoiled dogs and more like wild animals. The wolves I mean.
And the thing is, they look so damn similar to dogs that I tried to treat them the same way. With the three wolves watching me, I tried to see how they’d react to different things I did. Instinctively I whistled out to try and grab their attention. No response. After three more tries the guy I was stacking barrels with decided to educate me. It turns out that the wolves tune out, or at least don’t care, about human sounds. But the moment you create a sound that they know from their natural environment, like dragging a stick across the gravel, their ears prick up and you have their full attention.
In Eureka there have been no historical (or at least modern day) records of people being attacked by wolves. Though I don’t think I’ll feel totally confident if the pack decides to visit me while I’m out working.