White wolf encounter

Chance meeting with animal described as 'shocking experience'

Posted: Friday, March 19, 2010

As Jeannie Emanoff drove away from the Mendenhall Glacier Sunday evening, she didn't get very far.

Photo Courtesy Of Jeannie Emanoff
Photo Courtesy Of Jeannie Emanoff

Standing in the middle of the road was "a large animal," one she'd never seen before.

"I look up and there's this huge animal in front of the car," she said. "I've always heard about wolves in Juneau, but never seen them."

Emanoff, who practices wildlife photography as a hobby, said she scrambled to get a photograph of what she thought was likely a wolf.

"The animal came right in front of my headlights so I started rolling down my window (to get a photograph) and he came around until he was directly outside my window," she said.

By that point Emanoff said she rolled her window back up, but the animal (which experts confirmed was a wolf), seemed quite curious and remained inches away from the glass.

Her Yorkshire terrier, who she described as friendly but is known to bark at other animals and birds, took one look outside and then curled up in the passenger seat. For the remainder of the encounter the dog stayed quiet and refused to look up.

"She didn't make a peep," Emanoff said.

The white- and grey-colored wolf moved back in front of the car, and Emanoff said she tried to roll down the window for a photo. But yet again, the wolf came around the side of the car to investigate. This pattern repeated a number of times.

"I wasn't scared and he didn't seem aggressive, just more curious than anything," she said. "(But) it was really shocking and really, really surprising."

Ryan Scott, area management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said there could be a hundred different reasons why the animal approached Emanoff's vehicle.

"It could be because of the dog she had in the car, could just be curious, but in situations like this we worry that this behavior is happening because someone could be feeding the animal," he said.

Scott also said this isn't the first time they've heard of a wolf matching this description in the Mendenhall Glacier area.

"We've gotten a handful of calls all winter of wolves in and around Juneau," he said. "A light colored wolf was spotted around the glacier. We got the first call a few weeks ago, and another a few days ago."

Callers said the wolf they saw turned tail and ran away, a behavior Scott said is consistent with what he'd expect.

After around 30 minutes, Emanoff said the wolf moved on in the direction of the Mendenhall Visitors Center. She believes the animal may not have been alone, as it kept looking into the woods while in front of her car.

But whether or not there were other wolves in the woods is pure speculation, Scott said.

"This one's been alone, as far as I know," he said.

Emanoff returned later that night with a friend to look for the wolf, but the search was unsuccessful.

Emanoff said she contacted animal control out of concern that the wolf was "too comfortable" around humans.

As for her close encounter with the animal, Emanoff said she's "still shocked."

Scott said she made the right move contacting authorities, but future sightings like this should be reported to the ADF&G office in Douglas.

"The take-home message here is to be mindful of these wildlife species, be cautious," Scott said. "Enjoy the opportunity to view, but don't encourage interaction."

This encounter comes on the heels of recent news surrounding the state's search for wolves that attacked Candice Berner, a 32-year-old Perryville teacher, who was jogging outside the village of Chignik Lake when she was killed March 8. Two wolves, believed to be responsible for the attack, were killed by ADF&G staff this week.

Scott said there's no reason Juneau residents should be concerned about this encounter, however.

"But be mindful. I'd say the same thing about black bear, moose, or any wildlife species. Make noise and stay in a group," he said.

• Contact Outdoors EditorAbby Lowell at abby.lowell@juneauempire.com or 523-2271.

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