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The Big Bad Wolf

by Denise Conroy

Cheyene Ap Jubilee & Prairie Espresso Dream (aka Reese) - The Main Characters of this story.

Here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan we have seen a growing number of Wolves in our area. The real concern is their fearless attitude towards humans. The year I got Reese, which was the winter of 2004-05 I had been out riding around our property. Wolves had been spotted in the area and Tom warned me just the day before that if Reese seemed concerned at any time to not force the issue and come back. I heard him, but thought, "what are the chances of that??" Sure enough back behind the barn Reese refused to move forward and had his eyes keen on something. I reassured him and legged him on.... his concern quickly passed and we kept going. When I got back and told Tom, he immediately went to that area to see if he saw wolf tracks. Not only was there fresh wolf tracks, but a fresh deer kill. In the white snow, there was blood everywhere! The wolf had killed a deer just 10 feet from the horse corral and had dragged it another 200 yards. To this day, I can't believe I didn't see it, but Reese knew it - yet he didn't over react at all. We must have spooked the wolf off his kill.

Then last spring, Erin and I were driving down the road and a Sheriff stopped us by waving his hand out his driver side window. We pulled over.....puzzled. He said, "I just wanted to warn you, there is a large male wolf standing in the center of the road up head and he isn't acting normal - be careful." We thanked him and drove on, eyes wide open. The wolf was gone, but the really scary part was that he saw this wolf just yards from our driveway and from our horses. The Sheriff was so concerned that he stopped by all the homes in that general area.

That summer, we moved the horses to my friend's property where there is pasture and we have access to miles of trails. (just a mile up the road) I always take my buddy Sam with me, who is a 2 year old Jack Russell Terrier. One nite, Sammy went off chasing a rabbit which is pretty typical. Moments later, I heard the sound of howling and it was coming from the direction Sam headed. I called and called him and started to worry abit. About 5 min. later Sam showed up completely out of breath and hid under the truck, panting. I could have sworn he had been chased by something and I assumed it had been a coyote.

(If you know Jack Russells, you know they are energetic and LOVE activity. We own two of them and they won't tolerate being left out of anything we do! They are both a valuable part of our family. Sam is 2 and we adopted him, and Pete is 12 and we have had him since he was a pup.)

Tom wasn't so sure it was coyotes....and told me to keep Sam close and to not go on the trails alone for a while. Again, I am thinking he is just being a bit over caucious and although concerned, I felt the chances of seeing a coyote or a wolf would be unlikely. I didn't want to overstress about it and not enjoy the summer riding season.

It was the following week when Tracy came home and we went for a long ride. It was wonderful. We were almost home when without warning, Reese's head went straight to the ground like a bloodhound and Chy's nose went straight up! Tracy and I both commented on it and JUST THEN I heard russelling in the woods just off the was Sam in a dead run, AND A YOUNG WOLF CHASING HIM - within inches of making him his next meal! Reese and Chy just stood quietly, unalarmed. I was frozen in fear and thought I would witness my dog being killed right before my eyes. That's when Tracy & Chy went into action! Sam had run across the trail in front of us and the wolf followed.....Tracy legged Chy into a DEAD RUN and charged that wolf!! I could not believe my eyes! The wolf stopped as he saw Chy coming and belined it in the opposite direction and Tracy continued to run that wolf deeper into the woods. BUT, as soon as Tracy would turn away and try to catch back up with us...the wolf would turn and follow! He was not giving up! Sam at this point had made it back to Reese and I and stood next to us panting and watching... I finally told her that we need to get back to the barn and get Sam in the truck where he is safe. So we legged the horses into a trot with Sam in front of us encouraging him to not venture off the trail again. I turned around and sure enough that wolf was within sight and sniffing the ground - not wanting to lose Sam's scent....

As we got closer to the barn, we heard our other Jack Russell, Pete bark as he heard us approaching. THAT wolf, heard Pete, stopped and made a fast exit off the trail, heading towards Pete! Tom must have showed up at the barn to see how our ride we screamed ahead to him, "Tom put Pete in the truck!!" Poor Tom, he was stunned......he didn't know what was going on with us trotting towards the barn, Sam out of breath and us screaming! But he jumped to action and threw both dogs in the pickup. It was then that we realized Sam was bleeding. That wolf had took quite a chuck out of his tail....he was seconds from being dinner. What a close call!

Tom with his best pal, Pete

We encountered that same wolf 2 times more on the trail after that...many weeks later. He was respectful of the horses and Sam knew we were his safety. There was one more time that the wolf came in for an attack while I was riding with Andy and we managed to run the wolf off again and get Sam ahead of us and trotted home. It was unnerving and made trail riding less enjoyable. We had only seen the one and we figured it was a young wolf - but if he wanted to bring in the pack, we would be in big trouble. I recently saw an article where a pack of wolves took down a moose.

Last Fall, we heard wolves killing a deer right from our shop window...but couldn't see evidence. I started to think we would be overun with wolves by spring. They seemed to be everywhere. People were seeing more and more of them. However, since that time things have been quiet and Tom is seeing more coyote tracks now, rather than wolf tracks. We aren't sure if that means the wolves have moved off or what. They say coyotes and wolves don't share the same I am considering this good news.

At any rate, it was crazy summer and very scary at times. I was incredibly proud of our Curlies in handling the situtation so calmly! They knew it had a different smell but they weren't nervous about it. My horse actually kept ME CALM. ;-))

Reese & Chy - Our Heros!

Update: Winter of 2007-08, we encountered more signs of wolves in our area. We went for a long ride just across the street and across our path was a deer kill, fairly fresh and no bones. We aren't sure if it is coyotes or wolves based on the prints, but the fact that we couldn't see bones tells me that it may be wolves. Again, the horses walked right through the blood & hair and Chy even stopped to sniff and nibble on the hair, yuck!! The scent didn't startle them at all.

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