Wednesday 15 November 2017

Netitishi Point 2/2 - Close Encounter With a Wolf Pack

Our birding at Netitishi wasn't really panning out and we were all feeling a bit discouraged at various points on the trip.  As our extraction date got closer it seemed as if the trip would end without too much excitement.  Things changed quickly on the last day of the trip, just as dusk was starting to settle in.  Kathryn, Todd and I heard a wolf pack start howling in the distance further west along the shoreline.  Todd and I howled back, and the pack promptly responded by howling back, closer this time.  I thought maybe they were moving out to the beach and I ran to the shoreline to see if I could catch a glimpse of these elusive animals.  Sure enough, maybe 1km away, I could see dark shapes emerging from the forest onto the beach. 

Todd and I ran down the beach towards the pack with our cameras and binoculars, using the mounds of sea ice as cover.  Luckily, the wind was blowing to us, meaning the pack couldn't smell us.  We finally found a good blind behind a large chunk of ice that was just short enough for us to peek over the top.  We watched with great excitement as not one or two, but eight large Gray Wolves sauntered down the beach towards us, no doubt looking for the source of those howls they had heard earlier.

5 of the wolves, more are off to the left

A few were quite playful, rolling on the ice just like your dog at home might do.

Todd and I watched as the pack got closer and closer until they were a mere stone's throw away from us (we estimated less than 50m).

The white wolf was enormous, and I wonder if this was the alpha wolf.

I like this one, you can see the wolf in the foreground licking its chops
 The hunks of sea ice made it tricky for both of us to see each other, although the wolves still seemed oblivious to our presence.

Eventually, the wolves were so close we could hear their paws crunching the snow and ice!  One of the pack hopped up on top of a chunk of ice to get a better view and promptly spotted us!

The photo below is full frame, no cropping!

 Although I was certain that wolves do not attack people, I thought they had gotten close enough and we withdrew, buzzing with excitement that we had shared a moment with this wild pack.  As we walked away the pack howled at us. 

They seemed curious about us, and it is possible that this pack has had very little contact with humans due to the remote nature of the James Bay coastline. 

The next morning we walked back to the area to see the tracks.  Below is a photo of the ice blocks we hid behind while observing the pack.

The tracks as expected were huge.  The photo below shows my hand, which is not small.

Truly the most amazing wildlife experience of my life, and I wouldn't trade it for even the rarest of bird sightings.  I left Netitishi Point fully satisfied, but not in the way I had expected.


  1. Must have been quite the "pinch-me" moment!

  2. I enjoyed reading that. I hope we can rage together some day, like the days of old. God willing.

    1. Thanks Tim! Yes, I am sure our paths will cross when the stars align!

  3. Pretty incredible sighting Nate. The coast of James Bay is a special place...

  4. Amazing indeed, not only to see such a spectacular group of mammals but to get such impressive photos. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Allen, I felt very lucky to be able to experience this and get the photos I did.

  5. Wow! What an experience this must've been! They are fascinating animals. I've seen a huge one in Moonbeam and heard a big pack near Cochrane, but I've never had a chance to capture good views like you did. That full frame photo is just amazing!