For centuries, wolves have remained mysterious and often feared creatures of the wilderness that are better avoided than engaged. That all changed for one small suburban Alaskan community though in 2003 when a lone jet black wolf walked out of the woods to investigate a man and his dog.
This is the story of Romeo, a wolf that made a lasting impact on everyone who met him.
Nick Jans wasn’t looking for a wolf, but a wolf found him.
Nick Jans had lived in Alaska for decades and was familiar with the Alaskan landscape and knew that wolves came with the territory. Encounters with them weren’t commonplace, however, which made one snowy afternoon with his dog Dakotah unlike any other.
Nick was sitting on his porch with Dakotah when out of nowhere a black wolf emerged from the woods.
Dakotah bolted over to the wolf.
Before Nick had a chance to grab Dakotah by the collar, she was off the porch like a lightning bolt and running towards the wolf. The dog either wanted to greet the newcomer for a round of play or was ready to defend her master from an intruder. Either way, Nick was instantly concerned for Dakotah’s safety.
What happened next he never saw coming.
Wolves are incredibly territorial.
A wolf pack is a delicate social hierarchy with a male leader of the pack who dominates over all the other wolves. It’s not uncommon for younger beta males to challenge the leader for higher ranking in the pack and when wolves encounter another wolf that’s not a member of the pack, fights to the death often ensue.
Nick was terrified that this wolf would either see Dakotah as prey or an enemy that must be killed.
Dakotah inched closer to the black intruder.
The hair on Nick Jans’ neck raised up as his dog Dakotah inched ever closer to the black wolf. Poor Dakotah looked so much smaller when compared to the much larger wild animal. Nick was prepared for the worst, but neither animal showed any sign of aggression. In fact, the two sniffed each other and then began to play “as if each were glimpsing an almost-forgotten face and trying to remember,” Nick recalled.
Nick Jans ran inside to get his camera.
Nick still was feeling anxious about the encounter his dog was having with a wild wolf, but ran back inside to tell his wife Sherrie and grab his camera. This was a moment that he had to document because it may never happen again.
The domesticated dog and the wild wolf played for several moments while Nick snapped photos and then the wolf disappeared back into the woods.