There are no pictures and no recordings. No corroborators of my story or hard evidence to present. There are only the vivid memories etched into my brain, the memory of the rush and these words to remind me of one of the most incredible wildlife experiences of my life!
It starts out like most of my mornings this summer. I'm up before dawn to do breeding bird surveys under the employment of AMEC. This particular week, I'm at a site up in the Rainy River area of Ontario (the westernmost corner of the province).
The day is clear and warm, and I'm walking an old forest road for the second round of bird surveys. The first time around my highlight was a pair of Golden-winged Warblers foraging together oblivious to my presence. This morning I hoped for the same. Little did I know, I'd get much much much more.
Half-way through a ten minute point count, my reverie and the bird songs are interrupted by a noise coming from up the road. I turn my head in curiosity. Moments later, a buck white-tailed deer is charging down the path straight at me. Quickly I try to think, what is it doing?! I wave my arms and clipboard in the air and call out to the deer. About ten meters away it finally catches sight of me and tears off into the woods to my right. That was weird I think to myself.
With the adrenaline running high and the sounds of the buck fading into the woods I finally understand why he was running. A wolf, yellow eyes ablaze and ears pricked, is sprinting down the path straight at me. Every hair on my body raises. Two thoughts compete in my brain; is this really happening and there are no records of wolves attacking people right? In the blink of an eye, the wolf is 15 meters away. It catches sight of me standing in its way. With a look of annoyance, it darts to the right and it follows the buck's path into the forest.
At this point the rush is incredible and would only get better. Out of nowhere from my right, a doe comes charging out of the woods almost straight at me. I could taste its fear. Never before in my life have I seen terror written so plain on any being's face. Her eyes were practically rolling into the back of her head while saliva flicked from her face. Cutting right in front of me the doe crashes through the woods to my left. With thoughts barely formed in my head, and trying to take in what was happening, the chase is joined. Two wolves materialize out of thin air! One on the path in front of me and one slightly to my left. Completely rooted to my spot along the forest path, and utterly transfixed by what is happening around me, I watch in complete amazement as the one wolf gets 5 meters from me before it realizes I'm blocking its way. With a look like 'who the hell are you', it stops, takes a little jump back and peels off to the left with its partner in pursuit of the doe. Eyes following and ears listening, the chase swings to my left and in behind me. I hear the doe putting distance on the wolves, and they let up a bit, grey shadows weaving their way through the green understory.
Thinking perhaps that was the end of it, I once again try to collect my thoughts. However, in a flash I am transported right back to the chase. A fawn, hidden in the forest undergrowth, can take it no longer. With two wolves set on blood, the terrified beast comes bolting out of the woods straight at me. As it lands its feet on the path, it swerves behind me and back into the woods. Being between the fawn and the wolves, they do not pursue. At that same moment, something up the road catches my eye. I look up and see a new wolf, bigger then the others staring at me. What it was thinking I'll never know, but as quick as it had appeared, it disappeared. Turning back around to see where the other two had gotten, I see nothing. The woods are silent and still once again.
Only at this point do I become fully aware of the adrenaline and blood pumping through my body. Thoughts of utter disbelieve and exhilaration float into my head and my spirit is lifted to an incredible height. Hands shaking, birds forgotten I try to collect my wits. I check my watch. Still 2 minutes left on my point count. Could that have only been a little more than a minute? It seemed like an eternity. As water flows around a rock in the midst of river, so too did the chase flow around me. In all my years of tramping through woods and meadow, beach and mountain, I've never had an experience like this one. To observe a chase is one thing, but to be a part of it is another. To see the look on each animal's face and to feel their fear and excitement is incredible.
As I walk off along the road, all I can think of is how very lucky I am!