What is the single riskiest thing you’ve done in the wild? For Canadian morel hunter Joanne Barnaby, it was being stalked by a wolf for no less than 12 hours, and leading that animal straight into a confrontation with a mother bear. Barnaby and her friend Tammy Caudron decided to take advantage of a wildfire burn near Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, and gather some morels. The two arrived in the area on June 10 and spent 3 hours with Barnaby’s dog, Joey, harvesting these much-coveted mushrooms. At some point, the two women got separated and Barnaby found herself in unfamiliar territory. Her bucket was already full, so she decided to return to her with Joey. That was when they ran into a lone wolf.
“I heard this growl behind me,” Barnaby told the CBC. “There was a long, tall, very, very skinny wolf. A black wolf. And his legs were spread and his hair was standing, and he was growling, and baring his teeth.”
It looked hungry and desperate. At that point, Barnaby said she didn’t know whether it was more likely to attack her or the dog. Born and raised in the Northwest Territories, Barnaby knew full well what kind of wildlife lived in these forests, and she later told reporters that she sorely regretted leaving her rifle behind. Not wanting to risk either her life or the life of her dog, Barnaby said she backpedaled and walked deeper into the woods.
“He looked old to me, but he was smart,” she told The Washington Post. “It took me a while to realize how smart he was, and that he was actually being very, very strategic in trying to separate me from my dog and wear me down. I don’t think he was strong enough to take us both on. And I think he knew that.”
Instead, the crafty wolf followed the woman and her pet at a distance—but never too far. This test of endurance lasted 12 hours, and by the end of it Barnaby was dehydrated, exhausted, and plagued by mosquitoes. The worst part was that the wolf was outplaying her attempts to escape. Whenever she took a turn for the highway, the wolf would cut her off. She was being pushed deeper into the forest, where her options were limited.
Then finally, around 4:30 a.m., Barnaby discovered something that could allow her to escape the wolf. She heard a loud growl from a bear sow and further away, a response from its cub. The two bears had gotten separated and were trying to find each other in the dark. If she could get between the two, the sow may notice the wolf and attack it as a threat to its cub.
A risky move that could end badly, but Barnaby decided to chance it. After maneuvering for another 20 minutes, she heard the noise she was waiting for.
“I heard this big crashing behind me and realized that the mama bear had attacked the wolf, or maybe the other way around, I don’t know, but they were fighting and I could hear the wolf yelping and I could hear the mama bear growling and I could hear all this crashing and I just took off!” she told the CBC.
After that, the wolf was no longer a problem. Now the priority was finding her way back home, and that proved to be no picnic. After escaping the wolf, Barnaby narrowly missed making contact with a search party and took an additional 4 hours before she found her way back to the road. At that point, she was discovered by a RCMP officer and a park worker. Barnaby even insisted on driving herself back home.
You can watch an interview with her below: