In recent months, especially spring, there was much written about wolves. In a very short time at least nine wolf kills were verified. There probably were more. They seemed to have wandered off to happier hunting grounds, but have come this way again. I think it would be prudent to be watchful when out in peripheral areas if walking, hiking or jogging. It is always a good rule to never go alone and, in either case, carry protection.
With the foregoing in mind, I recently became aware of a new warning sign from ODFW that has been posted at trailheads around the area warning about what to do if encountering wolves. To verify this to my satisfaction, I went out to the trailhead at the south end of Wallowa Lake and, sure enough, there it was! I have a few problems with this notice, however, one being that it is the last item on a rather large glassed-in bulletin board, down in the far right corner.
After reading some of the many notices on the board, I finally discovered the warning about wolves and how to react if encountering the animal on the trail. I thought, what if you encounter a whole pack! The notice assumes, however, that you may encounter one. Personally, I thought, instead of an almost obscure bulletin item that there should have been a very large warning in flashing neon lights laying out the highlights that I am about to mention.
The first item on the list is not to feed the animals! I had an immediate epiphany! No one could possibly be that stupid! No way, no how! The wolf would condider the free handout as a snack and the idiot offering it as the main course! Anyway, ODFW, good point! Don't feed the wolves. It gets worse, however....remember, as you read this, the possibility of encountering not just one but many of the Canis lupis tribe!
They have been known to kill humans as delineated recently near Anchorage, Alaska!
Next item says to "Stay Calm" and, perhaps, there are those would do so. Not me. It may seem that I am calm because I am standing still, frozen with fear! You may be staring into the salivating faces of one to 10 or more carnivorous beasts and you are expected to stay calm! Okay ODFW, I admire your confidence in those hapless folks who experience the encounter...It still gets worse, much worse! As I continue to read the notice, it says, "Back away slowly while facing the wolf." Hmmm! Okay,as I kept reading, it says that we should be sure to leave the wolf a way to escape. My thought was how about the wolf letting me have a way out....
RAISE YOUR VOICE AND SPEAK FIRMLY! That is the next item and I am having difficulty believing I could even voice a syllable, much less, a word! It goes on to say wave your arms while making yourself look larger? Not quite sure how to do that at a height of five foot, eight and 212 pounds with jelly for knees (at this time, anyway). It goes on to say that you should make noise and to throw any available object? I am having a real hard time believing what I am reading but there is more! It says that in the unlikely event you are attacked (why is it so unlikely?) to fight back by throwing rocks, sticks, camping gear, tools and use your hands to fend off the animal! That will work, I am sure. Again, what if it is more than one wolf? I am sure ODFW means well but this is my life they are toying with here! No problem as I would not be there in the first place.
The next notable item is what a wolf howl sounds like. Believe me and I say this from the bottom of my heart having heard them in my home town in Alaska! When you hear their howl, your body becomes paralyzed, your throat becomes too dry to scream, your blood freezes solid in your vascular system and your heart taps out "HELP" in Morse Code! In closing, my reaction to all the above warnings would not be necessary because it is hard to throw rocks and sticks, camp gear, etc., when running for dear life in the other direction!
Stormy Burns is a Joseph resident.