I wave my arms desperately, trying to attract Sam’s attention.
“Hey,” I call out to him sotto voce. “Sam, there’s a wolf!” But he neither hears nor sees me and keeps on shaking out a tattered plastic tarp. I cringe as the silence of our clearing is shattered into a million pieces by the crackling of the stiff tarp.
Is he blind and deaf or what?
I hop up and down in frustration, my arms slashing at the morning air in an effort to tell Sam to leave the tarp alone. It’s no use – I have to add yet more noise to it, even if my voice scares the wolf away.
“Sam! Drop that bloody tarp,” I yell. Finally, I’ve got his attention. He looks at me and gestures at his ears. I roll my eyes in exasperation. “There’s a wolf on the creek,” I explain in a stage whisper and turn to head back down the clearing, certain that the animal has vanished by now. Sam catches up with me just as the creek comes into view.
“Sorry,” he mouths.
I nod, still peeved that he didn’t telepathically clue in to the need for silence, but am mollified when I spot the wolf trotting down the ice. It’s a dark one, maybe the same that we saw a couple of weeks ago.
We crouch and watch as he moves along, loose-limbed, his gender obvious when he stops to sniff at a dog pee spot.
He sniffs intently, lifts his leg and scratches out an autograph for good measure, his hind paws digging deep into the snow. That taken care of, the wolf picks up his pace again, his tail held higher now, level with his spine. A few more seconds and he’s gone.
Sam and I are so busy dissecting the appearance of wolf (was it the same one as the other day?) that we almost miss it: two wolves trot out from the place the lone wolf disappeared behind. A light coloured one and another dark one, smaller and with a thinner tail than the first dark wolf. The tan wolf seems full of confidence, jogging down the ice in a purposeful manner, while the dark wolf hesitates, stops and looks back all the time.
Sam and I wait for the first dark wolf to reappear and join these two, but he doesn’t show. The two animals progress steadily down the creek towards the beaver pond, although the reluctance of the dark wolf makes it look uneasy.
Cold seeps through my pants and I realize that I’ve sat down in the snow.
Expecting to see nothing more interesting than the wolves vanishing into the distance, I beat the soggy snow off my bum.
That’s when a moose and her calf step onto the beaver pond, maybe three hundred metres ahead of the wolves. I sit down again. “They’re going to go for the calf,” Sam says excitedly. The two moose keep up their sedate pace, apparently ignorant of the wolves.
“I don’t think they’ve seen the wolves,” Sam whispers to me.
The wolves, however, act as cool as the moose. They both look at the cow and calf but they don’t accelerate their pace. The reluctant wolf pauses for another wistful look over her shoulder while her tan companion moves towards shore, away from the moose.
“I don’t think those two have a chance against the moose,” I say, eyeing the 10-month-old calf. It does keep nice and close to mom.
“If there were more wolves or if these two would be more of a team, but …”
The dark wolf has stopped, apparently dithering about which way to go. In the meantime, the two moose have reached the other shore of the pond and disappear into the trees without so much as a backward glance at the wolves. I exhale.
At the beaver lodge, the dark wolf finally catches up with the tan one. It is only now that they begin to show an interest in the moose: they start sniffing the tracks and, in a most casual way, begin to follow them across the pond.
“Well, they might check them out after all,” Sam comments as the wolves vanish into the trees. I half expect the third wolf to come running and join these two for the hunt.
Would he even know?
Then again, I’m sure wolves communicate a lot more efficiently than I do with Sam when there’s something moving out there. Got to work on that telepathy.
Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.