Dog saves fam­ily from wolf at­tack

FORT NEL­SON: Day of to­bog­gan­ing al­most ends in tragedy as wolves stalk chil­dren

The Province - - News - BY LENA SIN STAFF RE­PORTER

With their pro­trud­ing rib cages and shrunken bod­ies, there was no ques­tion the wolves were hun­gry.

Shadow saw them al­most im­me­di­ately; the chil­dren and their par­ents didn’t.

In the dusky north­ern light three days be­fore Christ­mas, two Fort Nel­son fam­i­lies came dan­ger­ously close to two hun­gry wolves, un­til the fam­ily dog, Shadow, nar­rowly averted dis­as­ter.

The wolves ap­peared qui­etly at about 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 22, as dark­ness was creep­ing in on the win­ter won­der­land 100 kilo­me­tres east of Fort Nel­son, where the fam­i­lies were to­bog­gan­ing.

About 30 me­tres away, a sleigh­ful of three chil­dren — one aged four and the oth­ers aged three — were be­ing hap­pily towed along the base of a hill by an all-ter­rain ve­hi­cle.

Fa­ther Kyle Keays was obliv­i­ous to the dan­ger un­til he sud­denly heard his wife’s shriek from the top of the hill.

Shadow, their Rot­tweiler-cross, had bro­ken from the grasp of Keays’ wife and was bound­ing down the hill to­ward the wolves, who were mov­ing in to­ward the chil­dren.

“I looked back and saw my dog in­ter­cept the lead wolf — there were two of them. They were head­ing to­wards the kids and the dog came in,” said 36-year-old Keays, who was rid­ing on a sep­a­rate ATV.

Be­ing too far from the chil­dren, Keays headed to his nearby work camp to grab a ri­fle.

Mean­while, friend Rod Bar­rie, who had been tow­ing the chil­dren in their sleigh, slowly and calmly made his way to a nearby truck, where Bar­rie’s wife was wait­ing.

“The first wolf hit [Shadow] in the side and grabbed his shoulder. He spun around and grabbed that wolf by the face,” said Keays.

“I was think­ing ‘Good dog, you get steak din­ners for the rest of the month if you make it through this.’”

By now, Bar­rie had reached his truck with the wolves just six me­tres away. The cou­ple quickly pulled the chil­dren in­side while Bar­rie armed him­self with a shovel and be­gan swat­ting at the wolves.

The wolves glared; Shadow growled. No one was budg­ing. Bar­rie de­cided to jump on his ATV and drive the wolves into the woods.

The strat­egy seemed to work, with the wolves bat­ted back some 20 me­tres into the bush.

Once at camp, where Keays works as a gas plant op­er­a­tor, Shadow got a thor­ough in­spec­tion but only suf­fered bumps and bruises.

“The wolves were def­i­nitely not afraid,” said Keays. “They were skinny, skinny. Very hun­gry.” Ap­par­ently, they weren’t done yet. Not long af­ter reach­ing the camp, Keays heard some­thing move. The wolf with the black and sliver coat was back.

Keays, a li­censed hunter, fol­lowed the tracks, found the wolf about 300 me­tres away and shot her.

He found the wolf’s car­cass the next morn­ing, ap­par­ently halfeaten by the other wolf. Be­cause of the po­ten­tial dan­ger, Keays found and shot the sec­ond wolf as well. Both in­ci­dents were re­ported to a con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer.

In his years of hunt­ing, this wolf en­counter was one of the more pe­cu­liar ones, said Keays. For one, wolves aren’t known to eat other wolves’ car­casses and for an­other, they aren’t known to prey on hu­mans ei­ther, he said.

“You never see them. I work out in the bush all the time and nor­mally your first glance is your last glance,” he says.

There have only been a few doc­u­mented cases of fa­tal wolf at­tacks in North Amer­ica.

Ear­lier this month, wolves at­tacked dogs in three sep­a­rate in­ci­dents in Prince Ru­pert, re­sult­ing in the death of a young mal­tese, ac­cord­ing to a news re­port.

And a pack of wolves were also re­ported to have at­tacked three women and their dogs in Alaska last week, where wolf at­tacks have been in­creas­ing in fre­quency.

Thanks to Shadow, the Rot­tweiler-cross at front left, two Fort Nelson fam­i­lies were saved from a wolf at­tack.

Af­ter his fam­ily was stalked by a pair of hun­gry wolves, 36-year-old fa­ther and hunter Kyle Keays tracked and killed the fe­male, top, and male, bot­tom, wolves.

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