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Work Out - Wolf!

By Nancy Leasman

I was preoccupied with cutting and removing a small dead tree entangled with woody vines. I’d cut the six-foot section of trunk and pulled and unwrapped the vine. I turned away from the stump and moved toward the brush pile. And there, only 10 feet from me, was a wolf!

No, of course it wasn’t a wolf. This is rural Minnesota in the 21st century. Daytime.

But my first impression was that it was a wolf. With no howling, no crinkling of dry leaves, no snapping of twigs or rustling of grass, this creature had advanced to within a short distance and I had been oblivious to it.

The only known wolf attack in Minnesota occurred in 2013. That happened, according to news reports at that time, in the Chippewa National Forest in north central Minnesota, at 4:30 in the morning. That news source also reported that “there have been only two documented fatal attacks in North America.”

My risk of being confronted by a timber wolf in rural Todd County was as likely as a snowflake falling in July. Yet, there was a light brown, four-legged canine standing stock-still, head down, eyes staring into mine.

Timber wolves are described as having coats with a mix of gray and brown, lighter facial markings and undersides, and long bushy tails. Also known as gray wolves, they look somewhat like a large German shepherd.

I realized very quickly, mostly because of its size, that it was NOT a wolf but a German shepherd. However, I had no idea what its intentions were. And it wasn’t alone. Fifty feet away stood a large, nervous black dog. Dogs are much attuned to human actions, and as I glanced toward the black dog, the shepherd looked over its shoulder. It may have wanted to see what I was looking at, but probably also to check on its companion. It knew it wasn’t traveling alone.

These dogs could have been friendly. They likely belong to someone who lives fairly close, though I haven’t seen them in anyone’s yard. But dogs who wander freely also get themselves into trouble. We’ve had stray dogs kill our chickens in berserker displays of savagery. They’ve torn their way into rabbit cages and killed young and old alike.

I didn’t see this as a good time to make friends and inadvertently invite them to become regular visitors.

Feeling brave, with a 4 inch by 6 foot cudgel in my hands, I pounded the log vertically on the ground and shouted, “Go!”

The shepherd took a step toward me. Not the reaction I expected.

The dog glanced over its shoulder again and when it saw its companion turn away and head for the hills, it did too, encouraged by a second thump on the ground and my second encouragement to “Go!”

I feel safe when I work in the woods alone. There’s certainly more danger from a falling tree, the spinning teeth of the chainsaw, and poison ivy than there is from the wildlife. Yet the fact that these two animals came very close without my awareness of them makes me think I should be a little more watchful.

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