Return of the Wolf won a Silver Medal in Environment/Ecology at the Independent Publisher Book Awards!
Based in the USA, the annual award honours the best independently published titles from around the world.
Judges include experts in the fields of editing, design, bookselling, reviewing and libraries. Their decisions are based on quality of content, originality, design and production with a special emphasis on innovation, compelling text and social relevance to current times.
A thousand thank yous to everyone at my publisher, Douglas & McIntyre, for the time, energy and support given to the Wolf. And also to the people who so generously contributed their knowledge, experiences and photographs.
A book, especially an award-winning one, is truly a collaborative effort!
Around 1:00 a.m. on August 9, Matt and Elisa Rispoli jolted awake when they felt the side of their tent move violently. Matt assumed it was a black bear so yelled and struck the tent where the animal was pushing on it. The animal bit Matt’s hand and proceed to tear open the tent. As their shelter collapsed around them, Elisa threw herself over the New Jersey couple’s two young sons.
Through the new opening in the tent, Matt saw a wolf about a metre (three feet) away. Then it lunged at him, grabbing him by his upper right arm. Matt, tried to punch the wolf in the throat but that didn’t deter it. As the wolf tugged the police officer out of the tent, his wife grabbed his leg and tried to pull him back.
The screaming woke up the Fees who were camping nearby. Russ’s wife handed him a lantern and he sprinted toward the noise. The Calgary resident saw what looked like a large dog and using the momentum of his run, kicked it in the hindquarters. The animal let go of Matt but didn’t leave.
With blood running down his arm, Matt crawled out of the ruined tent, brandishing a tent pole. The two men threw rocks from the fire circle and yelled at the wolf until it backed off enough for the Rispole family and Russ and his wife to seek sanctuary in the Fee vehicle. The wolf followed Matt but the two men were able to keep it at bay.
Both families were badly shaken by the ordeal and Matt is recovering from bite marks and puncture wounds to his hand and arm. The next day a park employee found a wolf about a kilometre (half mile) from the attack site. When he got out of his vehicle the wolf approached him and was shot and killed. DNA revealed it was the wolf that had attacked Matt.
Although wolves have attacked people in two Canadian provincial parks and elsewhere in Canada, this is the first documented wolf attack in a Canadian national park. And the incident has wildlife officials somewhat puzzled. There were no significant attractants in or near the tent at the Rampart Creek Campground and no reports of a food-conditioned or habituated wolf in the area, which are the primary cause of negative human/wolf interactions in North America.
Results of a necropsy described the condition of the wolf as old, extremely emaciated (35 kg/78 pounds) and with worn teeth. Unless further evidence of a conditioned/habituated wolf comes to light, the motivation for this predatory attack appears to be starvation.
The Rispoles and Fee did everything right. They made lots of noise, aggressively fought back and got to a safe place. Based on evidence available at the time of this posting, this was an extremely unusual situation that no one could have foreseen.
Two tools that may have stopped the altercation sooner are bear spray and/or a fixed blade knife. (It’s illegal for anyone other than staff to carry firearms in Banff National Park.)
There have been some complaints about the wolf being shot. But, the reality is, the wolf would have been a danger to any human it encountered. And shooting it meant a quick death, rather than a long, lingering one.
This unfortunate incident is a good reminder to be prepared when in wild areas and that wolves are large, strong predators that can, on occasion, be dangerous to humans.
From ancient times, Indigenous peoples in North America called the first full moon after the winter solstice the Wolf Moon. This was often the coldest, darkest month of the year, when hungry wolves could be heard howling outside villages.
The sky will provide a backdrop for some extra drama when 2019’s Wolf Moon takes place the evening of January 20 – 21. On that night the full moon will pass its closest to earth making it appear larger and brighter than normal. That adds the super to Wolf Moon.
And, depending where you are, at some point that night the earth will move between the sun and the super Wolf Moon creating a total eclipse. The earth’s shadow makes the moon appear red, hence the term blood.
A super blood wolf moon is relatively rare, occurring approximately every three years. But how do wolves respond to this lunar event?
Wolves howl, hunt and travel at any time but are most active around dawn and dusk, as well as throughout the night. And whether they’re sitting, standing or lying down, they lift their snouts to howl. But, rather than focusing on the moon, some believe they’re simply taking advantage of the extra light it provides.
“I know from sleeping near the Sawtooth Pack for eleven years that wolves do howl more during a full moon,” Jeremy Heft writes in the summer 2009Sawtooth Legacy Quarterly. A wildlife biologist, Heft’s worked at the Wolf Education and Research Center in Winchester, Idaho, since 1998. “They tend to be more active then because it’s easier to see prey and hunt.”
In the 1970s, wolf researcher Paul Paquet observed unusual behaviour in a pack during a solar eclipse. The wolves were actively wandering around an estuary on the BC coast when the moon passed between the earth and the sun. As the light faded, the wolves gathered together along the shoreline and gazed in the direction the bright sun had been. They only resumed their normal routine when the sun began to reappear.
So it’s hard to say how wolves will react to a super blood wolf moon. My guess is they may howl earlier in the night when the moon is brightest but stop to gaze upwards during the dimming of light and change of colour during the blood phase.
Wolves have cast-iron digestive systems capable of handling fragments of bone and shell, animal fur and even the intact nails from a seal.
When it comes to food, wolves are opportunistic. They’ll eat berries and have been known to nibble on human food and garbage. String and remnants of clothes have also been found in the scat of camp robbers.
Wolf scat looks similar to a piece of cord and usually tapers to a point on the end. An adult wolf’s scat is usually between 25 to 38 millimetres (one to 1.5 inches) in diameter. If it’s runny, the wolf may have recently eaten some bloody meat.
Una Ledrew and Dave Ratcliffe were startled when they observed chunks of rope in wolf scat near their home. “They were chewing on and swallowing ropes of all kinds, plastic rope, big thick rope we use to tie up the skiff,” Ledrew said.
My guess is the wolves were after the salt left behind by human hands but some of the rope had been out in the open for ages. Wolf experts I spoke to were baffled as to why wolves would consume rope.
Wolf scat is more than just part of a wolf’s elimination process; it’s also an important part of lupine communication. Scat is one way wolves’ mark their territory and is often found in conspicuous locations such as trail intersections.
These visual and olfactory markers serve as a signal to warn other wolf packs out of their territory or to let family members know they’ve passed that way. Wolf scat is also part of nature’s recycling program, enriching the soil wherever it’s deposited.
But the biggest surprise about wolf scat is butterflies. They aren’t in it, they’re on it. Apparently, butterflies love wolf scat due to the high concentration of nutrients. In fact, numerous researchers told me, “If you’re looking for wolves, look for butterflies.”