Stephanie Yuill trekked through the frigid Canada air with two dogs — her own, Eliza, and another named Lazlo.
The trio was walking along Fox Lake in Fred Henne Territorial Park on Nov. 25, Yuill told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. That’s when they rounded a corner and were greeted by a group of approximately nine canines.
Yuill thought she was looking at a team of sled dogs, she told NNSL Media.
“I literally came around this corner and I’m like, ‘Oh, look at that dog team. One, two, three, four… nine of them. Aren’t they beautiful?’ Because they were sort of fanned out and they were uniform in size,” she told the news outlet.
As Yuill got closer to the animals, though, they started howling, and she realized she was actually only feet away from a pack of wolves, she told the outlet.
“I started getting really scared,” she said. “I’m going to be bluntly honest, I was absolutely terrified. I’ve never encountered anything like that.”
Eliza and Lazlo bolted, leaving Yuill alone to face the wolves, she told CBC. She had hiking poles with her, so she got creative.
“I had hiking poles and I started banging them together,” Yuill told the news outlet. “I’m just like ‘hey, hey, hey.’ I know sometimes dogs respond to deeper voices, so I put my best deep voice on. I started yelling at them.”
After the wolves dissipated, Eliza and Lazlo returned, Yuill said. As the trio started heading back in the opposite direction, the wolves started following them. Eventually, some crossed the lake while others “disappeared into the trees.”
Yuill said the wolves seemed curious, not aggressive, according to NNSL media.
“They were just watching me. They were just sitting there watching me and then they would howl and then they would watch me some more,” she told the news outlet.
Canada’s Department of Environment and Climate Change posted a warning about wolf encounters in the park, according to a Nov. 25 Facebook post.
The department said officers had responded “to an incident where nine wolves were reported to be showing brazen stalking behaviour towards their dogs,” and it cautioned all park visitors to stay vigilant in the park for the pack and any stalking behaviors.
Wolves are “relatively abundant” in Canada’s Northwest Territories, according to the department. Males can grow to approximately 88 pounds while females are smaller, growing to about 77 pounds. Wolf-human conflicts are “rare,” and the canines are “generally extremely wary of humans and not aggressive towards them by nature.”
While wolves are typically not aggressive toward humans, they can be aggressive toward dogs, department officials said.
“A wolf sees a dog as a ‘trespassing wolf’ that should be driven away or killed,” they said. “Wolves can be aggressive towards dogs at anytime, but especially leading up to and during the breeding season (December –February) and the denning period (April - May), or if wolf pups are nearby.”
Fred Henne Park is in Yellowknife, which is the capital city of Canada’s Northwest Territories.
What to do if you encounter a wolf
If you encounter a wolf with your dog, the department suggests bringing your dog “to a heel at your side as soon as possible.” Do not stand between your dog and the wolf, and do not try to break up any physical fights between your dog and wolves.
Officials also suggest the following steps during a wolf encounter:
Raise your arms and make yourself appear as large as you can.
Act aggressively by making noise and throwing objects at the wolf/wolves.
Do not put your back to the wolf and do not run from the wolf.
If the wolf does not flee, continue making yourself appear large, maintain eye contact and back away.
Calmly and slowly back away while keeping eye contact with the wolf.