[Vision2020] Amazing Story of Saving a Wolf and her Pups

Nicholas Gier ngier006 at gmail.com
Fri Apr 5 10:31:37 PDT 2019

One spring morning many years ago, I had been prospecting for gold along
Coho Creek on southeastern Alaska’s Kupreanof Island, and as I emerged from
a forest of spruce and hemlock, I froze in my tracks. No more than 20 paces
away in the bog was a huge Alaskan timber wolf—caught in one of Trapper
George’s traps.

Old George had died the previous week of a heart attack, so the wolf was
lucky I had happened along. Confused and frightened at my approach, the
wolf backed away, straining at the trap chain. Then I noticed some­thing
else: It was a female, and her teats were full of milk. Somewhere there was
a den of hungry pups waiting for their mother.

>From her appearance, I guessed that she had been trapped only a few days.
That meant her pups were probably still alive, surely no more than a few
miles away. But I suspected that if I tried to release the wolf, she would
turn aggressive and try to tear me to pieces. (Here are the proven skills
to survive any emergency

So I decided to search for her pups instead and began to look for incoming
tracks that might lead me to her den. Fortunately, there were still a few
remaining patches of snow. After several moments, I spotted paw marks on a
trail skirting the bog.

The tracks led a half ­mile through the forest, then up a rock­-strewn
slope. I finally spotted the den at the base of an enormous spruce. There
wasn’t a sound in­side. Wolf pups are shy and cautious, and I didn’t have
much hope of luring them outside. But I had to try. So I began imitating
the high­-pitched squeak of a mother wolf calling her young. No response. A
few moments later, after I tried another call, four tiny pups appeared.

They couldn’t have been more than a few weeks old. I extended my hands, and
they tentatively suckled at my fingers. Perhaps hunger had helped overcome
their natural fear. Then, one by one, I placed them in a burlap bag and
headed back down the slope.

When the mother wolf spotted me, she stood erect. Possibly picking up the
scent of her young, she let out a high­-pitched, plaintive whine. I
released the pups, and they raced to her. Within seconds, they were
slurping at her belly.

What next? I wondered. The mother wolf was clearly suffering. Yet each time
I moved in her direction, a menacing growl rumbled in her throat. With her
young to protect, she was becoming belligerent. She needs nourishment, I
thought. I have to find her something to eat.

I hiked toward Coho Creek and spotted the leg of a dead deer sticking out
of a snowbank. I cut off a hindquarter, then re­turned the remains to
nature’s ice­box. Toting the venison haunch back to the wolf, I whispered
in a soothing tone, 'OK, Mother, your dinner is served. But only if you
stop growling at me. C’mon, now. Easy.' I tossed chunks of venison in her
direction. She sniffed them, then gobbled them up.

Cutting hemlock boughs, I fashioned a rough shelter for myself and was soon
asleep nearby. At dawn, I was awakened by four fluffy bundles of fur
sniffing at my face and hands. I glanced toward the agitated moth­er wolf.
If I could only win her confidence, I thought. It was her only hope.
[image: a black sign with white text: One snap of her huge jaws and she
could break my arm ... or my neck.]© Provided by Trusted Media Brands, Inc.
One snap of her huge jaws and she could break my arm ... or my neck.

Over the next few days, I divided my time between prospecting and trying to
win the wolf’s trust. I talked gently with her, threw her more venison, and
played with the pups. Little by little, I kept edging closer—though I was
careful to re­main beyond the length of her chain. The big animal never
took her dark eyes off me. 'Come on, Mother,' I pleaded. 'You want to go
back to your friends on the mountain. Relax.'

At dusk on the fifth day, I delivered her daily fare of venison. 'Here’s
dinner,' I said softly as I approached. 'C’mon, girl. Nothing to be afraid
of.' Suddenly, the pups came bounding to me. At least I had their trust.
But I was beginning to lose hope of ever winning over the mother. Then I
thought I saw a slight wagging of her tail. I moved within the length of
her chain. She remained motionless. My heart in my mouth, I sat down eight
feet from her. One snap of her huge jaws and she could break my arm … or my
neck. I wrapped my blanket around myself and slowly settled onto the cold
ground. It was a long time before I fell asleep.

I awoke at dawn, stirred by the sound of the pups nursing. Gently, I leaned
over and petted them. The mother wolf stiffened. 'Good morning, friends,' I
said tentatively. Then I slowly placed my hand on the wolf’s injured leg.
She flinched but made no threatening move. This can’t be happening, I
thought. Yet it was.

I could see that the trap’s steel jaws had imprisoned only two toes. They
were swollen and lacerated, but she wouldn’t lose the paw—if I could free
her. 'OK,' I said. 'Just a little longer and we’ll have you out of there.'
I applied pressure, the trap sprang open, and the wolf pulled free.
Whimpering, she loped about, favoring the injured paw.

My experience in the wild suggested that the wolf would now gather her pups
and vanish into the woods. But cautiously, she crept toward me. The pups
nipped playfully at their mother as she stopped at my elbow. Slowly, she
sniffed my hands and arms. Then the wolf began licking my fingers. I was
astonished. This went against everything I’d ever heard about timber
wolves. Yet, strangely, it all seemed so natural. After a while, with her
pups scurrying around her, the mother wolf was ready to leave and began to
limp off toward the forest. Then she turned back to me. 'You want me to
come with you, girl?' I asked. Curious, I packed my gear and set off.
[image: a screenshot of a cell phone: I had no fear. The wolves were merely
curious. So Was I.]© Provided by Trusted Media Brands, Inc. I had no fear.
The wolves were merely curious. So Was I.

Following Coho Creek for a few miles, we ascended ­Kupreanof Mountain until
we reached an al­pine meadow. There, lurking in the forested perimeter, was
a wolf pack—I counted nine adults and, judging by their playful antics,
four nearly full­-grown pups. After a few minutes of greeting, the pack
broke into howling. It was an eerie sound, ranging from low wails to
high-pitched yodeling. At dark, I set up camp. By the light of my fire and
a glistening moon, I could see furtive wolf shapes dodging in and out of
the shadows, eyes shining. I had no fear. They were merely curious. So was

I awoke at first light. It was time to leave the wolf to her pack. She
watched as I assembled my gear and started walking across the meadow.
Reaching the far side, I looked back. The mother and her pups were sitting
where I had left them, watching me. I don’t know why, but I waved. At the
same time, the mother wolf sent a long, mournful howl into the crisp air.

Four years later, after serving in World War II, I returned to Coho Creek.
It was the fall of 1945. After the horrors of the war, it was good to be
back among the soaring spruce and breathing the familiar, bracing air of
the Alaskan bush. Then I saw, hanging in the red cedar where I had placed
it four years before, the now­-rusted steel trap that had ensnared the
mother wolf. The sight of it gave me a strange feeling, and something made
me climb Kupreanof Mountain to the meadow where I had last seen her. There,
standing on a lofty ledge, I gave out a long, low wolf call—­something I
had done many times before. An echo came back across the distance. Again I
called. And again the echo reverberated, this time followed by a wolf call
from a ridge about a half­ mile away.

Then, far off, I saw a dark shape moving slowly in my direction. As it
crossed the meadow, I could see it was a timber wolf. A chill spread
through my whole body. I knew at once that familiar shape, even after four
years. 'Hello, old girl,' I called gently. The wolf edged closer, ears
erect, body tense, and stopped a few yards off, her bushy tail wagging
slightly. Moments later, the wolf was gone.

I left Kupreanof Island a short time after that, and I never saw the animal
again. But the memory she left with me—vivid, haunting, a little eerie—will
always be there, a reminder that there are things in nature that exist
outside the laws and understanding of man.
[image: a fox sitting on a rock: With four tiny pups to feed, the mother
wolf would need to stay nourished.]© Provided by Trusted Media Brands, Inc.
With four tiny pups to feed, the mother wolf would need to stay nourished.

During that brief instant in time, this injured animal and I had some­how
penetrated each other’s worlds, bridging barriers that were never meant to
be bridged. There is no explaining experiences like this. We can only
accept them and—because they’re tinged with an air of mystery and
strangeness—per­haps treasure them all the more. Read on for an incredible
survival story of a hiker who survived back-to-back grizzly attacks

*This story originally appeared in the May 1987 issue of Reader’s Digest.*


A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they
shall never sit in.

-Greek proverb

“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity.
Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance
from another. This immaturity is self- imposed when its cause lies not in
lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without
guidance from another. Sapere Aude! ‘Have courage to use your own
understand-ing!—that is the motto of enlightenment.

--Immanuel Kant
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