A Canadian woman has told of how she made use of a nearby bear to deter a wolf that had stalked her and her dog for 12 exhausting hours in forests in the remote north of the country.
Last Friday, Joanne Barnaby and her friend Tammy Caudron were picking morel mushrooms near Fort Smith in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Then, Barnaby said, she and her dog Joey encountered the wolf.
“There was a long, tall, very, very skinny wolf,” she told CBC. “A black wolf. And his legs were spread and his hair was standing, and he was growling, and baring his teeth.”
Separated from Caudron, Barnaby and Joey were pushed deeper into the forest, the wolf cutting off the route back to Barnaby’s vehicle and standing its ground when Joey charged it.
“It took me a while to realise that he knew what he was doing,” Barnaby said. “He was trying to wear me down. He was trying to separate Joey and I. He was dogged. He was just determined. I was in trouble.”
The Royal Canadian Mounted police confirmed that Barnaby was reported lost in the Wood Buffalo national park and that it was involved in a search mission for her.
While they looked, Barnaby said, she endured a harrowing 12 hours in which she and her dog were forced farther into the wildfire-burned forest. Barnaby, who became dehydrated, said she was fatigued and bothered by “zillions” of mosquitoes that blanketed her face and arms.
Salvation came in the unlikely form of a mother bear, whose growls were heard as the sun began to rise. Realizing the bear had become separated from its cub, Barnaby said, she settled on an unorthodox plan – to get between the mother and her offspring, despite the very real danger she could herself be attacked by the bear.
“I realised that there was a chance that the mother bear would tackle the wolf if she felt that the wolf was a threat,” she said. “So I made the choice of walking towards the cub.
“I heard this big crashing behind me and realized that the mama bear had attacked the wolf, or maybe the other way around, I don’t know, but they were fighting and I could hear the wolf yelping and I could hear the mama bear growling and I could hear all this crashing and I just took off.”
Barnaby attempted to head back to civilization, filling a beer can with water from a lake and then a stream. She encountered another obstacle of thick vegetation that almost prevented her from finding her way out of the forest.
“I didn’t think I was going to make it,” she told the Washington Post. “I started talking to both my sons, one of whom died when he was a baby, and my other son, who is a young man now. I was talking to all kinds of people that I love, and I was crying the whole time.”
On Saturday morning she finally managed to get to the highway, where she saw several Mounties involved in a search effort. Barnaby chose to drive herself and Joey home – and “nearly passed out from exhaustion” while doing so.