The Mailand Weekly Mercury Saturday, December 22, 1906
This Article is titled: Attack of Alaskan Wolves.
By John A Hornsby
I had been riding all day visiting the construction camps of the White Past Railroad on my regular round, as surgeon of the company, writes John Allan Hornsby. Toward evening I had to pass through a thick clump of hemlock saplings nearly a mile in extent. When I was about halfway through this jungle, my tired pony suddenly picked up his ears, snorted, and seemed to be Greatly frightened about something. I could see nothing, nor could I hear a sound except for the chirp of the birds, an occasional croak of a raven, and the incessant chattering of the squirrels. Again the pony snorted, and this time actually trembled with fear. Still I could make nothing of it, and gently urged the little horse forward. He responded gallantly, and quickened his pace, as though to get away from some danger.
Presently we came to a dense clump of underbrush, and the path narrowed so that I had to use both hands to push aside the low limbs of the hemlocks. While we were in those close quarters, there rose upon the air the most unearthly yelling that ever met a human ear. It was as though a thousand curs, of all sizes and kinds, had broken out at some preconcerted signal with all the power of their lungs. My pony sprang with a suddenness that almost unseated me, and as I grasped his neck and lay forward to keep from being raked from his back by the brush as he tore through the winding path at the top of his speed, frantic with fear. As soon as I ceased to feel the limbs pounding against my head and body, I raised myself up, to find we were deep within the forest, and saw in front of me and on the sides four huge, gaunt, Siberian wolves, then white fangs gleaming, their red tongues dolling out of their mouths, dotches of foam dotting their shining black coats here and there. Without an instant's hesitation, they sprang at the pony's head, with the evident intention to throttle him at once. They would have succeeded, had the frightened animal not darted to one side at the same instant, and whirled with his heels to the pack.
Fortunately, I had my rifle with a full magazine of a dozen shells, and even quicker than I could think what was the best to do had it out of the case and had brought down one of the savage beasts. Then occurred something that I had often read about with a great deal of incredulity. At that moment, the villainous comrades of the fallen wolf left me and my horse and turned upon the carcase, instantly they, were joined by three more wolves that sprang out of the bush, and as I sat there undetermined what to do they ripped their comrade to pieces, and snapped at each other for the choice morsels. They were already tearing the skin and picking the bones, and I knew that in another moment I would again claim their attention. It seemed hardly possible that so few of the animals could make all the noise I had heard at first, though I was familiar with the demoniac yelling of coyotes back in the States, and I fear that I should have to deal with a much larger pack, as soon as the others should summon up sufficient courage to come out into the open. With this prospect, I determined to fight at as great an advantage as I could, and as it was out of the question to attempt a stand on my panic-stricken pony, I urged him to the nearest tree of sufficient size to hold me out of their reach, tied hem securely with the strong rope I always wore about his neck, while sitting in the saddle, and then, standing up, pulled myself into the tree, taking along only my rifle.
It was well that the rope was strong, else the pony would have broken it, and got away only to meet an almost instant death. As it was I felt, that if the rope would hold, I could protect him with my rifle as long as the shells held out.
I had hardly got seated comfortably where I could shoot, when the pack, having finished their fellow marauder, came at us with the same determined courage they had, shown in the first instance, but no more showed themselves, for which I was truly thankful, though I must admit that by this time I had begun to calculate on some exceedingly fine skins. I waited until they got within a few feet of the pony, took a careful aim, and got, the biggest one of the lot. Strange to say, the pack did not attempt to devour the second dead wolf but ran for cover, and I thought that perhaps they were giving up the contest. But their unearthly yelping kept up in the brush soon undeceived me, and after what seemed a sufficient time for them to have held a council of war, they made another attack, this time, however, with more care and less reckless courage.
Again I got one, and the others ran away. I was almost tempted now to descend and try to get my game — I was calling it a game by this time — near the tree out of the reach of the pack. It was well I used caution, for in the next attack, which came a few moments later, the brutes evidently intended to get the pony, whether or no, and actually got close enough to draw blood from one of his hocks; but, finding he could not get away, the timid little horse began a defence himself, to so good a purpose, that one of the wolfs went sprawling 10 yards away, and lay still until I could get a bead on him and settle the job that Pinto had begun.
I was sure now that I had only three of the beasts to combat, and to that end concluded to take longer chances with the remaining shells, The sun was by this time settling down toward the high mountain to the west, the shadows- were growing longer, and it scorned that I was in for a night in the tree, when the pony, evidently anxious for my nearer society, set up a neighing. The noise, with the suggestion food behind it, must have stirred up the wolves again, for with a rush they came at the tree. This time I got two more, and a few moments later, I caught a glimpse of the remaining one as he crept among the bushes, and ended the career or the pack. It was a half-hour's work to tie the logs of each wolf in turn to one end of my pony's rope, throw the other end over a stout limb, and by means of my saddle horn and the strength of Pinto, hoist the beasts up into the tree one by one, which I could tie them with pieces of the rope, out of reach of any other of their kind, or similar roving vandals of the woods. Until I could send men out to skin them and bring in the hides. There were six as beautiful black skins as I ever saw, and I have wondered since whether I would be willing to undergo again the flight of the first few moments of my encounter for such a bag of game.