Last Friday, Joanne Barnaby went mushroom picking in a forest near Fort Smith in the Canadian Northwest Territories. It was an inauspicious beginning to what would end up being a 12-hour ordeal, one involving a desperate wolf, swarms of mosquitoes, an unwitting bear cub—and a can of beer.
Barnaby, along with her dog, Joey, and friend Tammy Cauldron, went looking for morel mushrooms in a forest recently ravaged by wildfires. The two friends eventually became separated, leaving Barnaby alone with Joey. Once her pail was full, she headed back towards her truck—and that’s when the trouble started.
“I heard this growl behind me,” she 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.”
Joey charged, but the wolf didn’t back down. Barnaby saw that the wolf was desperate, telling the CBC that he looked weak, old, and unhealthy. “I don’t think Joey expected that,” she said.
The wolf began to force the duo away from the truck and highway. And then it dawned on Barnaby: the wolf was deliberately trying to wear her down and separate her from Joey. Over the course of the next 12 hours, the wolf remained relentless, pushing the two further and further away from the truck. “I was in trouble,” she said.
She soon became dehydrated, and her calves and thighs began to ache. The only thing she had with her was a can of beer, which she later described as a “silly choice.” Adding insult to injury, the wolf wasn’t the only thing she had to contend with. “I was going crazy with mosquitoes,” she said. “There were zillions of mosquitoes.”
Then, around 4:30 in the morning, she stumbled upon a bear cub. She made the incredibly risky move of approaching the cub, knowing the mother was nearby. She thought the mother might tackle the wolf if she felt it was a threat, so she made the harrowing choice of walking towards the cub. Incredibly, her plan worked. After luring the wolf to the cub—and then making a hasty exit—shit hit the fan.
“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.
That was the last she heard of the wolf, but not the mosquitoes, which were still driving her insane. Barnaby and her dog found eventually found a lake, where they were able to replenish themselves. The empty beer can became handy after all, and Barnaby joked that it actually saved her life. They later found a road and were rescued soon thereafter by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. And as you can tell from the photo she sent to the press, Barnaby was very happy to get back to civilization.