An Ontario man recently survived a life threatening wild wolf attack by stabbing the hungry canine to death.
I recently spoke at length with an Ontario man who faced an aggressive wolf that was looking for an easy meal. The resulting battle was up close and personal, and ended with one dead wolf and a man lucky to be alive.
Before we get to the story of the wolf encounter, we need to explain that this man doesn't want his birth name used. He shared his story online and was taken aback by all of the hate and condemnation he received for killing the wolf, even though it was in self-defense.
I spoke with him and he indicated that he found the negativity "very discouraging" and was considering taking down his original post.
The kind of ugly comments that ignorant animal rights people spew are something that many of us have had to learn to deal with. But for someone relatively new to social media and who mostly keeps to himself, they can be devastating.
This man has a personal page with a few friends. He shared his incredible story there, and one of his friends in turn shared it on other pages. The fallout came quickly and furiously, and justifiably had him second-guessing himself.
What should be an inspirational story of a man overcoming the brutal reality of life and death in nature turned to momentary self doubt and recrimination.
This is a story of determination and grit. It's a story of the prey turning the tables on the predator and spitting in the eye of death.
But for a modest man who justifiably revels in his victory over the jaws of death, we don't need to advertise or unduly bring negative attention to him or his family. So, with his permission, we'll use his indigenous, Anishinaabe name, Anawatin, which means "Calm Wind."
Earlier this winter, Anawatin was in the backcountry of northern Ontario, cutting wood with his chainsaw and axe. He does this to earn a little side money, loading up his truck with firewood and then selling it to folks who need it to heat their homes.
He was working on the shore of a frozen lake. Knee-deep snow covered the ground. Some tamarack trees had blown over and partially fallen, blocking his pathway to the trees he wanted to cut for firewood. The tamarack were lying, elevated, at an angle in the snow. It was tough going, as several of the trees had fallen entirely and were covered with snow, making getting in close to the area by snowmachine treacherous.
One of his Ski-Doo skis hung up on some buried timber, so he parked the machine right there in the spot he got stuck. He broke trail by foot the rest of the way to the fallen trees he could work on.
For an hour and a half, he broke trail and cut the trees into 6-foot lengths. He took a break, had a snack and a cup of coffee from his thermos, then went back to work. As he was using the chainsaw to remove branches from the trunks, he recalled that he felt something or someone was watching him. Turning the saw off, he scanned the treeline.
He noticed a slow, almost imperceptible movement within the spruce trees about 40-50 feet away. There he was, a lanky gray wolf, with his eyes locked on the woodcutter. As the pair met gazes, the gray began to snarl.
"He was growling and showing off his teeth, looking all vicious," Anawatin recalled.
So he started the chainsaw and revved it to try to scare the beast away.
"I started the saw and revved it up," he said, "thinking he will just let me be and go away."
But the wolf didn't go away. In fact, the canine started moving towards him.
Looking around to get a feel for his options should things turn ugly, he saw that he was about 40 feet away from his Ski-Doo and rifle, and there was still deep snow between him and it. Quickly assessing the situation, he turned the saw off and made a decision.
"I'm walking backwards to the lower part of the uprooted tree," Anawatin said. "I decided to climb it and walk up along the downed tree. I'm about four to 5 feet up and I start the saw again and continue to rev it and yell at him to go away. He's about 20 feet away now."
He admitted his adrenaline was pumping full bore.
"I'm scared during all this though, from the second I saw him," he said.
He yelled at the wolf, as much to frighten it away as to bolster his own courage.
"So I yelled at him," he remembered. "Whatever I yelled, it was about one of us not walking away from here alive!"
As the wolf got closer it started to run through the deep snow. Anawatin threw the chainsaw at the wolf when it got within about 12 feet away and missed.
"So I'm all pumped with adrenaline, and I pull out my knife from my ski pants and grabbed the axe that was already in the tree from when I stuck it there when I was working the branches," he said. "He's growling, showing his teeth, and continues to try get at me!"
Then a bit of fortune smiled on Anawatin. As the wolf got close and prepared to leap, it must have put pressure on the deep snow. About 3 feet from the knife-holding Anawatin, the wolf's front legs sank deeply into the snow. It was buried with only its head and backside exposed above the snow.
Anawatin doesn't know what compelled him to do what he did next. Maybe it was a conscious decision once he saw the wolf at a disadvantage, or maybe instinct just took over. It must have been pure adrenaline, fear and rage, but like a berserker he launched himself off the tree and onto the wolf.
"It's at that moment, for whatever reason, I jump at him or launch myself with knife in one hand and axe in the other," he recalls somewhat incredulously.
As he jumped he dropped the axe. He instinctively wrapped his free arm around the wolf's head and pushed all of his weight down on the animal. He began furiously stabbing with his knife hand.
"I was able to stab his chest and stomach areas, four times I think," he said.
He released the knife and reached for his fallen axe. Though off balance he swung it as hard as he could, whacking the wolf with the heel of the axe head.
"I'm not even sure how I got ahold of it. My adrenaline was pumping and I just started running for my Ski-Doo. I ran so fast for my rifle, jumping over downed logs. I felt like I was floating on the snow."
Anawatin reached for his rifle, a 7.62x39 SKS. "He was spinning in circles, yelping and crying," he remembered. "He was maybe five feet from our fighting spot. I racked the bolt back and, not sure if I was aiming properly or not, just let out three shots as quick as I could. I missed at least once. I hit the ground in front of him."
The gray wolf was down now and barely moving. Anawatin walked over to him, and determinedly gave him a finishing shot.
"I think I gave him an honorable death, just like the death he intended for me," he said. "Perhaps today was a good day to die."
The ordeal was over. Or, I should rather say the wolf attack was over. Anawatin would soon face another ordeal: social media haters who he says are "more vicious than the animals we encounter."
Going home alive
Amazingly, he suffered no bite wounds. There were obvious concerns that it may have been a rabid wolf.
After the attack Anawatin continued to harvest wood, load up his sled, and tie at all down. He cleaned the blood from the wolf with "the fine crystal in the snow." He then tied the wolf to the top of his wood load and headed for home.
"I got home before night and asked my girlfriend to take a picture," he said. "I was full of adrenaline throughout out the evening. I made that initial Facebook post out of anger and adrenaline. I should have know better."
Anawatin shared the picture and his story on his Facebook page. You could tell from his initial telling of the tale that he was still pretty worked up over the encounter. His sentences are choppy, and he wrote in a stream of consciousness manner, displaying some of the bravado that probably helped him survive the attack. But he now feels he made wolves sound more dangerous to humans than they really are.
"I was taught to respect all living creatures and honor our kills. We are to always give thanks to our Creator for every thing he provides," he reflected thoughtfully. "I'm a simple man who tries hard to live a good life, and I like to keep to myself. As a young teenager I lost my mentors. They taught me to respect mother earth and all its creatures that our Lord God as provided us to live off the land. At an early age my late father and grandpa taught me how to survive life here... out on our trapline and traditional hunting grounds."
Spoken like someone who understands what he had done and the danger he had to face. He deserves credit for defending himself.
Social media backlash
A Facebook friend or two shared Anawatin's post, and soon it was going viral. That's something he could not have predicted and did not intend.
"I've been getting real hateful and threatening responses from people," he told me. "It's very discouraging. I'm being told to take my picture down as I'm an embarrassment to other native groups or people in general. I don't know if I'd like to continue this article and I don't know how to take my post off the Internet as demanded by many unhappy people. I don't know what to do.
"Now I've got thousands of people hating me locally and all over this social media. I'm being called a glorified wolf killer and worse things," he continued. "It's my fault for posting it though. It's got me feeling pretty crappy and down, and very discouraged."
I told Anawatin of my own battles with animal rights people and anti-hunters. I told him that he shouldn't feel discouraged, because he had had an amazing encounter with a deadly predator. He had survived a predatory attack by a hungry and desperate wolf--the most dangerous kind.
Many of us wonder and even dream of how we'd respond if confronted in a similar life-threatening situation. I like to think that I would have responded with the same kind of grit, courage, and intelligence that Anawatin displayed in his battle. I think a lot of us would, and that's honorable.
Social media is the playground for the ignorant and self-righteous. It gives cowards and armchair quarterbacks a platform from which to virtue signal their feigned outrage and elitist attitudes. These people deserve to be ignored and forgotten.
Anawatin is hopeful that this article will answer some questions and lessen the amount of negativity he's been receiving.
Fatal wolf attacks on humans are rare. Anawatin admits that had this been a pack of wolves rather than a solitary adult wolf, the story would have ended very differently. It is also probably fortunate that this wasn't a fat, healthy wolf.
"The wolf was ill and unhealthy," he indicated. "He may have over-worked himself in the snow, or however far he traveled from. Why he was alone, I'm not too sure. Maybe he was too weak to be a part of a wolf pack and was cast out. Since December there have been wolves in and out of our community, attacking domestic dogs and luring them out to river."
"As for attacking me, he was looking for a fight and probably saw me as a food source. I can't honestly tell you why wolves are they way they are. In my past encounters they would just let me be and go on their own way."
This isn't the first time Anawatin has had encounters with wolves and other wild animals. He admits he's run into the predators several times. He shared his account of one.
"One memorable encounter I had back in 2012, sometime in January," he began. "I was ice fishing on a lake about 30-40 kilometers from my community. The caribou migration happened during the Christmas holidays. The wolves are usually not too far behind the caribou when they travel."
"There I was, sitting at one of the fishing holes I had drilled, with my back to the wind. It's cold. Around -30 degrees with windchill. Suddenly, out of nowhere I see this caribou running at full speed in my direction. It was running for its life. It ran about 20 feet from where I was sitting on the lake."
"Then I notice four more animals running out from a small island, and I was excited, thinking more caribou. But it wasn't. It was two big wolves and two midsize ones running in my direction, chasing this caribou that passed by me seconds ago."
"They were at full stride, so my heart starts racing. I always have my rifle with me, and I took a shot in the air to let them know I'm there. But I remember those two big wolves with white, grey, and some black on their fur, almost 4 feet tall it seemed. When I shot they just stopped and walked by me heading towards the tree line."
"I didn't bother them as I know if I let them be they would not bother me...It was nerve-wracking, but was an awesome experience for me," he concluded.
Wolf populations are exploding all across northern America and Canada. They're currently on the endangered species list, but in many areas their populations are far from endangered. As their numbers continue to grow unabated, such attacks as the one experienced by Anawatin would presumably increase in certain areas.
Anawatin says he'll keep the wolf hide. It will serve as a reminder of the unpredictable nature of the wild, and of a battle he had with a magnificent creature that was also just trying to survive.
He says he ate part of the wolf. "As I ate, I prayed that I will never get another encounter like this."