Cyclist narrowly escapes wolf attack

An American cyclist was shaken but unharmed last week after being chased down the Alaska Highway by a wolf. Mac Hollan told the story of the close encounter on the Facebook page for his ride, a 4,400-kilometre journey to raise money for food for school children.

An American cyclist was shaken but unharmed last week after being chased down the Alaska Highway by a wolf.

Mac Hollan told the story of the close encounter on the Facebook page for his ride, a 4,400-kilometre journey to raise money for food for school children.

He had cycled ahead of his two travelling companions, heading north about 100 kilometres west of Watson Lake, when he looked over his shoulder to see “the biggest damn dog I have ever seen,” according to the post.

He realized it was a wolf as the animal “lunged for my right foot and snapped its jaws, just missing my pedal.”

Hollan kicked it into high gear and put enough distance between him and the wolf to reach for his bear spray.

But the blast to the face barely slowed the wolf. After 20 seconds, the wolf attacked again, snapping at the bags on the back of the bike, wrote Hollan.

The tent bag was ripped open by the wolf’s teeth, spilling tent poles over the highway.

Another shot of bear spray to the face and the wolf dropped back again, still keeping an easy pace with the bike.

Four vehicles passed Holland, ignoring his increasingly desperate waves and cries for help.

He kept using blasts of bear spray to fend off the wolf’s advances.

Then disaster struck.

“As I came around the corner, to my horror I saw a quick incline, and knew that I would not be able to stay in front of this wolf for much longer,” wrote Hollan.

“I just kept thinking about all the shows I have seen where wolves simply run their prey until they tire and then finish them. It was a surreal moment to realize that I was that prey, and this hill was that moment.”

Then an RV came around the corner, and Hollan knew that this was his last hope.

“I placed myself squarely in the centre of the road and began screaming at the top of my lungs ‘Help me, there’s a wolf, please help me,’ while waving frantically.”

The RV stopped just ahead of the bike, and Hollan ran for it, first trying the locked door to the camper, then attempting to launch himself through the passenger window before finally the passenger door was opened for him.

“By the time I shut the door, the wolf was already on my bike pulling at the shredded remains of my tent bag,” wrote Hollan. “It was only at this point that the real reality of the situation sank in and I began to shake and cuss violently.”

It was about this time that Melanie Klassen came on the scene.

She had just passed Hollan coming from the opposite direction and saw the look of “sheer panic” on his face as the wolf chased him down the highway.

By the time her boyfriend, who was driving, got the Hummer and tent trailer turned around and back to the scene, the wolf was attacking the now abandoned bike and two other vehicles were pulled over on the side of the highway.

“He was just snarling at the bike, standing over it like it was his prey,” said Klassen.

Under protest from her boyfriend, Klassen jumped out of the vehicle and confronted the wolf, only a couple of metres from the vehicle, she said.

She was running on instinct: Her father, a former Yukon conservation officer, always taught her to “be bigger than the animal.”

She didn’t know where the cyclist was, or if he was safe.

“I reached into the truck and grabbed my water bottle and I just winged it at him, and I was waving my arms and screaming at him,” said Klassen.

Her two teenage children were watching from the back of the Hummer.

The water bottle hit the wolf right in the head, causing it to retreat several feet into to the ditch, said Klassen.

At this point a few other brave onlookers exited their vehicles, throwing rocks and any other objects on hand at the wolf.

The wolf was grey and mangy, with “bright orange eyes,” said Klassen.

Her bold actions earned her the title of “wolf beater” from her kids, who asked, “Mom, what were you thinking?”

She told them, “I wasn’t, I just knew we had to get rid of him.”

Hollan, safely in the cab of the RV, was “pretty shaken,” said Klassen.

“He was literally just vibrating.”

At this point Hollan’s cycling companions caught up.

Hollan was still “jacked on adrenaline”, and just wanted to get out of there, he wrote in a Facebook post.

The three of them were 15 kilometres down the road before the adrenaline wore off and Hollan felt suddenly dizzy and tired, he wrote.

He stopped to splash some water on his face in a creek, and “just lost it for a good 15 minutes.”

Nothing like this has happened in the Yukon before, said Ramona Maraj, the territory’s carnivore biologist.

But wolves have been known to chase moving objects and people, although it is “incredibly rare,” she said.

Wolves may be inclined to chase bikes and vehicles just as some dogs are, said Maraj.

“That behaviour has to come from somewhere. And so wolves have that same disposition to chase things.”

National media last month reported on an incident where a wolf chased a motorcycle near Banff, Alta.

In that case the motorcyclist was able to whip out his camera and grab a few photos of the pursuit.

Hollan and his companions have made it to Destruction Bay, according to the most recent Facebook post. Their final destination is Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.

To learn more about their journey, visit www.pointtobay.com.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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