October 31, 2013 - 11:18 AM
"I REALIZED THEY WERE WOLVES... COMING TOWARDS ME, HEADS DOWN AND SILENTLY SPREADING AROUND ME."
MERRITT – Everything seemed normal to Michelle Prosser when she set out to do a forestry road traverse near Merritt on Oct. 15 but just minutes after heading out she found herself being hunted by a pack of wolves. She managed to escape thanks to her two dogs, though only one survived.
As part of safety regulation all forestry crew workers with Lawes Forest Management must carry bear mace or have dogs with them as protection. Prosser had both and while that did save her life, her dog Rio suffered fatal injuries while trying to protect her.
Prosser has not returned to work since the incident. She said she is still shaken and said she wasn't available for an interview. Instead, she wrote and told us the story seeking awareness of wildlife risks to pets and people in the back country.
"It is still very painful. I miss my dog every moment of every day. He was a loyal, brave and true friend to me. In his mind, he sacrificed his safety to keep the wolves from getting near me again. I know this because the attack paralleled my path to the truck where the majority of the attack on him happened. As sad as I am, I am grateful he had the strength to get away from the wolves, so I could say goodbye to him.
I rescued him from the pound eight or nine years ago and he repaid me that day. I'm sure this isn't the first time he has protected me and I didn't even know it. I have worked with him for years in the bush and always felt safe when he was with me.
I don't want people to get the impression that I want these wolves killed. I knew the risk of being in the outdoors, but I didn't realize wolves were now this far south in B.C. It was shocking. I was very scared. I have had encounters with lots of wildlife over the years but this, by far, was the scariest.
When I first saw the wolves, they were already hunting. My dogs are always slightly ahead of me, so they came into my space first. When they first appeared, I thought, 'what, are these dogs?' I was in complete shock. They were not as large as I have seen in pictures or on TV. I realized they were wolves when they started coming towards me, heads down and silently spreading around me.
I learned that day that dealing with wolves is by far different than other wildlife. They hunt in packs and it was difficult to keep my eyes on all the wolves moving around me. This made their movement far less predictable, which scared me. I could only keep track of the wolf closest to me. I began getting my bear spray ready and yelled at them. They backed off for a second, then came back towards me. I acted strong and I guess they decided I was too much work. They disappeared just as quickly as they appeared.
I knew they were after my dogs. I called them in once the wolves disappeared hoping I could get a hold of them and lead them out. I got a hold of my young dog, but he immediately picked up the scent of the wolves and I couldn't hold onto him and hike out of the bush. My old dog soon appeared, but he didn't get close enough to me. They both took off after the wolves' scent. There was nothing I could do but get myself out at this point.
So, that's what I did. I called from a handheld radio for help and someone answered and said they were on their way. There was a short attack in the bush just out of my sight then I called my dogs as I hiked out, hoping they would get away. My young dog soon appeared, running. Then he turned around and barked a few times because a wolf was following him out and he didn't want it near me.
The truck wasn't far, so as I was loading my one dog into the truck, the second more severe attacked happened near the truck, but just out of my sight. By the time I loaded my dog, Rio came around, full of blood, put his paws on the truck tail gate (as he always did, saying, 'OK, lets go') and I loaded him up. I didn't get a chance to look at his wounds.... I still had hope I could save Rio, so I raced to the vet. The whole ordeal was probably five minutes. My mind was racing a million miles a minute.
The hope of saving Rio kept me strong for the drive to the vet, but it all hit me once I had a good look at Rio's wounds and the vet explained the internal damage he suffered. He said it was frankly a true miracle that Rio was able to walk away and make it to my side. He was truly a strong dog.
This attack has changed me by making the wilderness no longer a place of peace and quiet. In fact, silence is what upsets me now.
I know Rio was trying to protect me. In the past, he would always keep dangerous wildlife out of my sight and hold his ground and that's exactly what he did that day. Even though I reacted properly when the wolves were in my space, I still feel Rio was my hero that day. He unselfishly acted on my behalf and did his job. He loved me and gave his life for me and I will forever be grateful to him.
—edited for clarity
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