Friday, February 19, 2016

Looking into the Eyes of a Wolf in Glacier National Park

The following is a guest post by Ted Chase: 

As I look out the window of my cabin at Summit Mountain Lodge, I fall witness to the tranquility of Glacier National Park. Most mornings I can loose track of time gazing at the view from our lodge, but today the grip of the wilderness is too strong. My plan was to meander through the woods and explore what my wife and I refer to as "the church". The church is a wild, rugged wilderness that sees few visitors. Even during the height of Glacier National Parks peak season it's hard to find many people. Although it's winter here now, it feels like spring is just around the corner. The evidence is all around, some of the migratory birds including the robins are already making their way up from the south. I even saw two of our local great horned owls courting around the lodge. I couldn't wait to go explore, so I slipped on my snowshoes and threw on my backpack and decided I needed to go hiking in Glacier.

The snow didn't seem to impede me much as I shifted through the lodgepole pines in search of tracks and the hidden secrets the wilderness holds. It didn't take long to stumble upon moose tracks, they were very deep and even with my longest stride I couldn't come close to mimicking their footsteps. After about 15 minutes of snowshoeing over felled trees and through dense alders, I was finally able to see the base of the mountains. After scoping the landscape for several minutes I saw a couple of bighorn sheep up on a small hilltop grazing, so I ventured off hoping to get a couple of pictures before heading deeper into the dark forest.

The sunlight faded and danced through the trees as shadows cast doubt on my direction until I arrived at a stream that was familiar. There were fresh tracks along the stream and they appeared to be from wolves. I'm not one to get nervous in the woods, even when hiking amongst the top apex predators that commonly lurk in my own backyard. However, walking into their dining room is never part of my agenda. I quickly decided to retreat and move into a deeper area of the woods. I soon found a large meadow and it seemed like a great place to watch for animals, especially since many owls frequent this area. As I sat daydreaming there was an unexplainable sense of calm that was immediately interrupted as I witnessed several wolves making their way through the woods. As a wildlife photographer, I was a bit disappointed that I wasn't unaware of their presence and I knew my shot was gone. Surprisingly enough, they were not leaving and within less than a minute they started surrounding me. An eerie feeling came over me as they started howling on both sides at a very close distance. They were hidden enough in the shadows, but way too close for comfort. I decided that I needed to get out of this situation as soon as possible. My mind started racing and my fight-flight response started playing tricks on me. As I moved through the forest, I felt they were following me and even chasing me. My pace gradually increased as I took a sharp right turn running directly into a squirrel that shot up the tree sending me into partial paralysis. I froze immediately and as I glanced off to my right I realized I was indeed being watched. I was now face to face with a wolf feeding on a carcass, I could hear the ripping and tearing of flesh and bones and to my amazement the wolf continued to feed while watching me.

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So I did what any photographer would do, I pulled out my camera and tried to take some pictures. It was very dark in the trees, but I was able to capture a couple of rough shots. Regardless of getting the shot, this is a moment that I will never forget.

Stay tuned for more stories from my adventures, but more importantly, thanks for reading this one!

Author Bio:

Born and raised in Montana on the infamous Missouri River Ted Chase is a professional fly fisherman and wildlife photographer. He grew up fly-fishing on the famous Big Mo, but always enjoys escaping to new worlds in search of adventure. Ted and his wife Mara run the Summit Mountain Lodge, providing premier cabins on the border of East Glacier Park in Montana. The lodge offers a great launching point for anyone looking to fish the rich rivers of the big sky state.

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