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Abducted By Wolves

By Erika L. Foster

I was fascinated by wolves from childhood. I spent hours in front of the wolf enclosure at the zoo, owned an entire pack of stuffed wolves, and devoured books and documentaries on everything about wolves—their behaviour, their ecology, their role in the food chain. So it was little wonder when I went to school to study animal behaviour, with a double major in wildlife ecology. I excelled in my studies and when I was nineteen years old, and a sophomore in college, I finally got to participate in a field study. I got to track a wolf pack to study their pack behaviour.

I was in heaven.

This pack was notoriously elusive, impossible to capture—it was known for managing to escape all traps laid—and, when glimpsed, appeared to be of an unknown subspecies. Maybe a different species altogether. My task was to track their home and find out how they lived. If I was lucky, I could even capture one and microchip it. I would get to publish a scientific paper for sure.

It was the dead of winter, and my task was to find tracks that might lead to the pack. I was highly trained in tracking, so following a wolf pack on the move would not ordinarily be an issue for me. But this was a slightly different situation. By day I would drive out and hike for miles on end, then at night I’d have to get back to camp before it got dark. You get lost in the dark up north, you don’t make it back. And at that place, in winter, the daylight hours were very short.

It was not rewarding work.

I was with a small team of other scientists, and about two wasted weeks into the expedition, I suggested I head out with arctic camping gear and spend a few days searching in the woods. Not unheard of for problems like this one, but definitely not something undergrads did. I was in for a lot of cold and a lot of loneliness, but I was determined to find that pack. I packed my hiking gear and left the camp, secretly wondering if I’d ever be able to find my way back.

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