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article imageOp-Ed: Lone wolf encounter was eerily calm and surreal Special

By Elizabeth Batt     Mar 10, 2012 in Environment
Coram - Two nights ago I came face-to-face with my first Montana wolf as he returned to a juvenile elk killed in our pasture. It was an eerily calm experience for both of us.
It was midnight when I stepped out onto my porch. A beautifully clear night with a full moon that bathed the pasture so brightly, I could see across to the treeline. But much much closer than this, no more than 25 yards away, a lone Montana wolf stood calmly looking at me.
The meeting was a chance one, but not entirely unexpected. A commotion in the middle of the night had woken the entire family just the night before. As we stepped outdoors, the horses were snorting loudly, a signal something was amiss, and a single desperate cry (almost childlike in nature), pierced the night. Once it faded, the sole urgent bark of an elk was all that remained.
The following day rambunctious ravens readily led us to the carcass of a juvenile elk. Hardly hidden, it could be seen from the house, if one knew where to look. Fur dotted the icy hillside where it had been dragged down to the flat pasture for better eating:
A mass of fur from the juvenile elk littered the pasture.
A mass of fur from the juvenile elk littered the pasture.
The mother elk's desperate attempt to save her young was evident. Hoof tracks showed how she had spun in circles trying to fend off the attack. Her efforts proved futile:
A female elk launched a desperate attempt to save her young  but failed  as the kill site shows.
A female elk launched a desperate attempt to save her young, but failed, as the kill site shows.
The lone wolf now staring at me, was obviously returning to its kill. I doubt it had expected to cross my path, nor I his. Still, we took the measure of one another for about 10 seconds before he calmly (and nonchalantly), turned and strolled away. He was not in the least harried by the encounter and confidently paused to glimpse back at me before merging with the treeline and disappearing.
This morning, the carcass had been dragged yet another 40 yards and little remained of the elk that once was:
Very little remains of the juvenile elk killed a few nights ago in the pasture.
Very little remains of the juvenile elk killed a few nights ago in the pasture.
Only the hoof of the juvenile elk remains intact. Its shoulder blade was found some distance away.
Only the hoof of the juvenile elk remains intact. Its shoulder blade was found some distance away.
Coyotes had their fill of the elk carcass. The area was also littered with coyote urine and dropping...
Coyotes had their fill of the elk carcass. The area was also littered with coyote urine and droppings.
With the last two days in NW Montana being springlike and warm, the wolf tracks were quickly degrading, so we snapped what we could in the area:
With snow and ice melting rapidly  these images of wolf tracks were snapped before they completely d...
With snow and ice melting rapidly, these images of wolf tracks were snapped before they completely disappeared.
Tracks found by a wolf prowling the back country in Montana
Tracks found by a wolf prowling the back country in Montana
After speaking with Kent Laudon, the Wolf Biologist for Montana's Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Laudon told us he believed this particular wolf was out of the Apgar Pack located in Glacier National Park. He estimates there are around 13 wolves in this pack.
Reports of wolf sightings are increasing throughout Northwest Montana. Just a couple of weeks ago, a young wolf was snapped walking the fence line of a Kalispell school. He looked lost and more than a touch scared. Laudon said in a 2011 interview with the Western News, when a wolf is startled, "they may make a deep, ‘chesty’ bark."
My wolf never made a sound. Our encounter was totally silent and surreal, but he left me in awe.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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