It was snowing hard. The wind was fierce outside the small opening of the den and her pups were whining and nuzzling her for nourishment. She’d been on her own and without the benefit of the pack since her own puppy hood. The hunters had seen to the destruction of her mother, father, older siblings and aunts and uncles when she was just a juvenile.
She had roamed long and overcome many dangers, the only survivor of her family. She had grown wise and resilient during her journey to motherhood. The winter storm was by far one of her hardest lessons in surviving so far. The pups made it imperative that she continue to survive. She set out to find meat.
Pushing brush up around the opening of the den with her nose, she took one final look around and set out. She had traveled only a few miles when she caught the scent of rabbit. She slowed her pace and began to sniff the air. Then another more powerful scent caught her attention, the over powering scent of human! Her instincts told her to turn and go back, but her empty belly and empty teats told her to pursue the meal. Her ears forward and her eyes scanning, her nose sniffing the air…she crept forward.
She had taken only a few short paces forward when she saw the cowering rabbit in the thicket ahead. At the instant of her pounce, there came a crack! and a burning in her hip. She fell to the ground. Bleeding and in pain, she tried to pull herself to the thicket, the pain stopped her. She lay in the snow unmoving and breathing hard as the crunch of snow under the foot falls grew louder; the smell of acrid gunpowder and human got stronger.
It was over, her struggle to survive had ended. She would not be hunting for meat, or returning to her pups with milk. They too, would die. Her heart was strong, but it was slowly emptying itself of her life’s blood.
“Good shot!”…the sound of a human voice was new to her ears. She had managed to stay clear of their encampments, only exploring them after they had abandoned them. Now, the sounds they made only increased her terror. She again tried to drag herself to the thicket. Her efforts were feeble and desperate.
“We hit her, but she’s still alive. Better stand clear while I put her down for good.” He raised the rifle to take aim and as he did so, the wolf raised her head and looked back at him. Their eyes met. She knew it was the end..so did he. There was no turning back, she opened her mouth and let loose with a weak howl…a death song.
He shivered and then quickly pulled the trigger before he could change his mind. His thought as he walked over to the dead animal was what a strange hunt this had been. But one less wolf lived on his ranch because of it. As he bent down to inspect his kill he noticed she was a nursing mother. “We need to find her den, there’s pups.” He shouldered his rifle and set out to find them.
The hunter or the hunted. Who will survive?