This is an exciting, sincere narration of an event by a captivating humorist: Daphne Wynne Nixon
A very bright, outdoor painter, who has a track record of finding cool stuff no one else has noticed for centuries (she found California’s missing Mission), Daphne believes she met a Wolf in Carmel Valley this February, at a distance of no more than 30 feet.
Daphne’s observation is very difficult to dismiss because she regularly sees and knows well her local coyotes, bobcats and even mountain lions walking through her yard.
The nearly full moon was out and her outside yard lights were blazing in the animal’s face. She could easily compare the wolf’s size with her Siberian Husky Ziggy, who at one point was only about 15 feet from the wolf (Ziggy was on a leash).
For context – this is not a Big Foot sighting (no evidence ever), it is not a Mammoth sighting (they haven’t lived here for 10,000 years) or a Polar Bear. It is a possible sighting of a Grey Wolf that not only exist, and used to live right here in Monterey County, they have been sighted very recently only about 200 miles away.
In any case, whether you believe Daphne met a Wolf or not, read on and you will discover she is a delightfully entertaining writer —
“I was walking Ziggy last night at 10:45, or rather, I stood next to my house with all the porch lights on at the top of my driveway hoping my Siberian Husky would hurry up and pee. I felt nervous outside alone in the full moon light. No one around for miles out here in this remote valley of the Santa Lucia Mountains by the Big Sur Wilderness.
Daphne continues “Then, Ziggy started to go nuts! She pulled in the direction of my lavender field like there was some wild beast she desperately needed to chase. I thought it was probably a skunk, and I imagined us getting sprayed and stinky so I stopped her. Then, I sensed movement behind me from another different direction than Ziggy was pulling me in. This surprised me.
As a result, I turned with trepidation towards the movement in my peripheral vision with a sinking feeling in my stomach all the while wondering what on earth was coming up behind me from the night shadows of the sage bushes? I thought the universe halted to an end because I saw a wolf come under the wooden corral fence and stand 20 feet from me.
My brain stuttered to a complete stop and simultaneously the local sounds seemed to reverse into slow motion, and then completely stop and go backwards in slow, low tones like on a record player.
I focused on the wolf, it looked full-face frontal straight at me and we looked at each other’s eyes. I really got an eye full, something I didn’t ever expect would happen to me in a million years especially since I heard wolves were extinct!
It was light in color and the wolf’s beautiful face reminded me of my husky. I couldn’t believe a wolf was making eye contact with me in my yard! (Didn’t it see the “no trespassing” sign?)
Then, Ziggy pulled on her leash desperately towards the wolf. It was twice as big as Ziggy! The wolf simply stood and stared at me.
I had recently finished reading an article about dog training where it said to not stare at your dog because it inspires aggression for some reason. So, I wanted the wolf to stop staring at me, (and leave already!), and not get aggressive. I raked my brain trying to think of what to do.
I started to get my wild animal safety facts mixed up in my head. I asked myself, “Should I lay down and play dead?” “No, that’s for bears.” “Should I pour tomato juice on my dog?” “No, that’s for skunk spray”. “Should I punch it in the gills?” “Nope, that’s shark attacks”. “I know, I’ll run straight at it with my horse…no, that’s for rounding up cows on cattle drives”. “I know! I’ll suck the poison out of my foot! No, that’s rattlesnake bites”.
I was so stressed out that my brain ran through its Rolodex of information at lightning speed and stopped randomly at a decision. That was when I remembered something that might be useful…therefore, I stomped my foot really hard on the ground and hissed at the wolf as loudly as I could with my arms flailing in the air trying to make myself seem larger than I really am. (I later remembered that gesture was for mountain lions because it definitely didn’t work on the wolf).
The result: the wolf looked at me like I was ridiculous and somewhat of a curiosity. So, sure enough, I felt completely ridiculous! If anything, my mountain lion defense strategy worked in so far as I dumbfounded the wolf and it bought me some time.
In the deafening silence, it dawned on me though, that the wolf didn’t run away but, rather, kept a steady gaze on me.
This wolf wasn’t scared of me and Ziggy at all, in fact, it looked like it almost started to laugh. In contrast, Hercules, our local bobcat, runs when he sees Ziggy (he just yawns when he sees me)…as a matter of fact, even the mountain lion I encountered once behind my kitchen window dashed off as soon as I moved. Foxes and coyotes slink away too and they are very small compared to this huge canine looking straight at me.
This wolf, however, looked like it wanted to come over and meet us! I dreaded having to shake its paw. Shocked and frozen with fear, I couldn’t move. We all stood in the light of the full moon…and the bright glare of the porch lights. A standoff.
Suddenly, I became Superwoman. I turned and ran faster than a speeding bullet while pulling Ziggy on her leash flying through the air and leapt in through my back door in a single bound. Ziggy whiplashed in through the door on her retractable dog leash that I pressed the whole time I ran so she was retracted through mid air. She tried to stop to turn around on my porch in order to face the wolf but I yelled, “Come inside now!” I reached out, grabbed her collar and pulled her in through the door. Bam!! I slammed the back door behind us.
Ziggy never got to pee. She didn’t even care! Usually, she’d be jumping out of her fur begging to go outside. Once inside the house, though, she did something she never did before. She sniffed and pawed under the crack of the back door like something was there. I felt like I was in a horror movie. It followed us!
I closed the Venetian blind – too petrified to look out the window…still thinking about how not to stare at wild animals because it might threaten them. Instead of eating her food, or begging to go back outside again as usual, Ziggy looked happy and satisfied that I locked all the doors, turned out the lights, went upstairs, and even even locked my bedroom door.
No food. No pee. Ziggy happily sat on my feet as I sat at the bottom of my bed trying to process what happened. We just sat there for half an hour doing nothing and feeling happy not to be eaten alive. I was wondering why the wolf didn’t maul us with all its other buddies in the moonlight of the lavender field. I still had my coat and boots on. Ziggy laid next to me all night which she never usually does either. She literally got the piss scared out of her.
I then googled “wolves in Monterey County”. Turns out the Department of Fish and Wildlife released grey wolves back into the wild in Washington State several years ago. Subsequently, California passed a law to protect wolves as an endangered species anticipating the wolves would spread to California. And the wolves did!
A few years ago the wolves passed into Oregon, then, sure enough, into California in 2012 and made it to the Sacramento Valley. A female wolf from the Rockies met them and they had pups.
The DFAW spotted a new wolf pack family in Shasta with three pups. The article said they don’t know exactly where the wolves went to after that. Although they had a tracking collar on the original male, no one was able to put collars on all of the new wolf pups that were born after him, and then, as well as no collars on the next pups born after that and so on. They have new litters every year. Apparently, wolves can cover a lot of ground in a single day. They walk 5 miles per hour, and are always on the move.
(Editor’s note: So now there are at least two wolf families are known to be roaming through California in Shasta, Plumas and Lassen Counties – only about 200 miles from Carmel Valley.)
This morning I went back out to the same spot where I saw the wolf last night. Ziggy, who normally walks 400 feet down the driveway to her favorite “poop tree” as I call it, sauntered straight over to the spot near the house where the wolf stood last night to stare at us.
Ziggy proudly pooped right on that exact spot. I think Ziggy saved it up patiently all night so she could wake up and take her revenge in the safety of daylight. Then, I noticed there was fresh wild pig scat on the driveway too. Were the wolves following the wild pigs?
My 800 foot driveway winds down the hillside to the Carmel River. My house is literally on a five acre animal crossing. I have always noticed all the wild animals hang out here and shoot the local gossip breeze as they meander on down to the river for a drink.
I see Bobcats, Mountain lion footprints, Golden eagles, Great horned owls, turkeys, wild pigs, tarantulas, blue tailed Skinks, skunks, voles, moles, gophers, and of course bucks and does. Back to the main point, the fresh wild pig scat is there every morning. I see it when I walk my dog. Come to think of it, I always wondered what animal the other gigantic carnivore excrements were from on my driveway too. In addition, I find large pig bones on my property …femurs, skulls, and tusks…(Ziggy just dug up a giant knee bone last week and I threw in the bushes – near where the wolf came out – ’cause it stank). Plus, I find very large carnivore scat much bigger than anything Ziggy could accomplish. I always thought it must be a mountain lion. Now, I know it was a wolf….or a pack of them.
When I called them this morning, they said there’s no wolves in Monterey county that they know of, and they acted like like they were talking to the little old lady from Pasadena. They said a biologist might call me. Silence.
I could see that I got dismissed and everyone told me I must have seen a giant male coyote. Well, I’m here to say that I have seen a ton of coyotes. This was no coyote. This was a wolf.
I’m no fool, I didn’t go to Yale for nothing. But there’s wolves in them thar hills!! A hundred years ago this area on the central coast was wolf habitat. It’s even documented in mission records and pioneer records. The wolves were extirpated from California and the nation in the 1920’s.
However, the Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced wolves to Yellowstone National Park (where the wolves are doing quite well, thank you) and then also grey wolves to Washington State several years ago up north. Mexican wolves were reintroduced to the Southwestern United States too.
Wolves travel fast on foot. I’m here to tell you…they’ve returned to their native home…the wolves are back in Monterey County!
Ok, I know, I’m just a lavender farmer/oil painter artist, but when standing face to face looking into the eyeballs of a giant wild canine that looks exactly like a wolf and stands twice as tall as your husky dog who’s also standing right there for a clear and obvious size reference in the bright full moon/ blinding porch lights, dag nab it, you would know darn well what you saw too.
Hence, scientifically speaking, if it looks exactly like a wolf, walks like a wolf, acts & quacks like a wolf, and says, “Hey, I’m a wolf”, then it’s a wolf.
“Although I’m from that era, and have read and loved the book, ‘Women Who Run With Wolves’, and although I have since always aspired to that ideal of being a brave, archetypal woman who runs with wolves, in actuality, when in a pinch, I sadly realized about myself last night that I’m not one of those women.”
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Since we shamelessly killed the last California wolf in 1924, (about the same time as we killed the last California Grizzly Bear) none were seen in our state until 2011.
Update April 2019: A close colleague, who is a world class hiker (Pacific Crest Trail, etc.) and highly regarded for his calm, even conservative, assessment of our natural environment reminded me of his two distinct encounters with wild Wolves in the Sierra Nevada in deep snow in the late 1990s. He’d reported the sightings to “experts” who rejected them out of hand – without even asking any questions. So much for “experts.”
Since they received federal protection as Endangered Species, Wolves have been slowly moving South into California and have been observed in Shasta, Plumas and Lassen Counties.
What do you think ?
Could a wolf or a pack have made it the 200 miles from Plumas County to Carmel Valley (Monterey County) from Lassen? There’s a lot of roads to cross and the Wolves have only been confirmed in the Sierras.
Or could this be one of the Mexican wolves – illegally smuggled 400 miles North hidden in the back of an SUV ?
Safety – Yes
Wild wolves historically inhabited California, but they were essentially all killed by humans.
While one should regard wild wolves with serious caution, only one human is known to have been killed by a wolf in North America. (1)
Europe is a different matter. Wolves got their dangerous reputation from Europe and Asia where they are known to have killed humans on a historic and regular basis – and European Fairy Tales reflect that. But our North American wolves seem to have a lot more civilized behaviour.
Since people are killed every year or so by falling Coconuts and only one person was killed in a hundred years by North American Wolves – it seems you are a lot safer around Wolves than around Coconut Trees.
- From 1900 to 2000 – no one was killed by a wolf in North America. During the entire hundred years of the twentieth century, there were zero documented (let alone confirmed) cases of healthy wolves killing or seriously injuring a person in North America.
Sadly, in 2010, a short (4’10”) woman was killed by 2 to 4 wolves in a remote town out near the tip of the Aleutian Peninsula, at Chignik Lake, Alaska.
A young man was allegedly killed by a wolf in Point North Landing, Saskatchewan in 2005. But the scientists involved dispute it.
For more information on how to help California’s Wolf Reintroduction – see the California Wolf Center.