Wolves are gorgeous creatures, and they even look like sweet, friendly dogs, but it’s important to remember that wolves are wild animals. These aren’t creatures that you can just cuddle up to. You have to give them their space so nobody gets hurt.
In 2004, Nick Jans, an Alaskan wildlife photographer, was taking his dog for a walk in the snow. That’s when he came across a huge wolf just outside of his home. Nick was afraid that the wolf might hurt his dog or someone else, but what happened next took everybody by surprise.
A Wolf Came Out Of Nowhere
Back in 2004, Nick Jans was sitting on his porch in Alaska with his dog Dakotah by his side. While Nick was admiring the Alaskan landscape, a large black wolf came out from behind the trees and stood in front of Nick’s home.
Before Nick could even react, his dog Dakotah went running straight towards the wild animal. Either she thought the wolf was another dog who wanted to play, or she was preparing to defend her master from this fierce predator.
A Canine Face Off
At first, Nick was terrified. He was afraid that this wolf was going to hurt Dakotah. He wasn’t sure what to do as the dog inched closer to the huge black wolf. Then, something happened that Nick never saw coming.
Dakotah and the wolf started playing with each other just like they were old friends. Once Nick was sure that Dakotah was safe, he ran inside to grab his camera. Then he snapped this photo.
A Name For The Wolf
Nick noticed that the wolf liked to hang around his area. The wolf would often stop by to reunite with his friend, Dakotah. Nick thought that this wolf needed a name, so after giving it some thought, he decided to name the wolf Romeo.
Even though Romeo seemed friendly, Nick understood that this was a wild animal. He always watched closely when Romeo and Dakotah were playing and he never got too close to Romeo.
Romeo and Dakotah might get along well, but that didn’t mean the other neighborhood dogs would react the same…
The Other Neighborhood Dogs Eventually Met Romeo Too
A short while after Romeo met Dakotah and played with her, he made his way over to Mendenhall Glacier Park to see what the dogs over there were up to. Romeo would go there often to run around with the local dogs.
Dakotah must have given Romeo the confidence to meet other canine friends. Now Romeo was the life of the party. He loved playing and wrestling with a whole bunch of dogs.
People Warmed Up To Him Rather Quickly
At first, people at the park were quite wary of a large, wild wolf in their midst. Some visitors thought that the wolf might hurt them or their pets, but when they saw how gentle Romeo was and how nicely he played with the other dogs, most of their worries went away.
Even though Romeo was much larger than even the largest dogs at Mendenhall Glacier Park, people soon realized that Romeo was only there to have a good time.
The Dogs Accepted His Presence
Some of the dogs at the park were a little skeptical of Romeo. After all, he does look pretty intimidating. Some of the dogs were hesitant to play with Romeo at first, but just like the humans at the park, they quickly warmed up to him.
Romeo just wanted to make some new friends. Clearly, he was starving for social interaction. Perhaps he was separated from his pack and he was looking for a new one.
Romeo Behaved Just Like A Big Dog
Romeo made human friends as well as dog friends. In an interview, Nick said, “he would bring out toys that he’d stashed” and bring them to the people at the park. He was doing everything he could to win the favor of these Alaskan residents.
He just wanted to be accepted by the people and the animals around him. Nick was confident that Romeo was not a threat to people or to dogs.
Read on to learn what classic game Romeo loved to play.
He Liked To Play Fetch
Nick went into further detail about the items that Romeo would bring to the people at the park. He said, “One was a Styrofoam float. Romeo would pick it up and bring it to [my friend] Harry to throw.”
Maybe Romeo was watching all of the other dogs play fetch and he wanted to get in on the action. Maybe this is just innate canine behavior. Apparently, dogs both big and small like to chase after flying objects.
Romeo Seemed Like He Was Part Dog
Even though Romeo clearly wasn’t a domesticated dog, he displayed a lot of the same behaviors that dogs do. Nick added that Romeo “clearly understood the same sort of behaviors that we see in dogs.”
Romeo had been around dogs long enough to understand how they play and how they interact. Even though he’s not the same species as Dakotah or the other dogs at the park, he fit right in.
A Man, a Wolf, and a Dog
So there they were in the Alaskan wilderness: a man, a dog, and a wolf. Nick couldn’t help but take in how special the experience was, of all three of them enjoying the land, playing, and getting along peacefully.
Nick explained, “we were these three species working out how to get along harmoniously. And we did.” It’s not often that we read about situations like this, and Nick embraced the rare experience.
Romeo Felt Right At Home
Romeo sort of lived with Nick and Dakotah for a long time. Of course, he never actually moved into their house. He is still a wild animal, after all. But he did frequently visit the pair over the course of the next six years.
If you traveled to Mendenhall Glacier Park between the years 2004 and 2009, you would see a long black wolf playing with the dogs at the dog park.
Keep reading to learn more about what Romeo meant to the people of Juneau.
Romeo Connected the Community With the Wild
Eventually, Romeo not only earned the community’s trust, but became a fixture in it. The local residents, both those with dogs and others who came to the park to see the wolf everyone was talking about were in awe of the beautiful animal.
The community enjoyed the fact that they could trust a wild animal, and he trusted them back. For the locals, Romeo was an important symbol that they could be one with the land and wildlife around them.
People Went To The Lake Just To See Romeo
As Romeo’s popularity grew, locals visited the lake where he liked to hang out with the other dogs just to see the wolf. The situation came a long way from when everyone was initially (and understandably) freaked out about the presence of the wolf around their dogs.
Still, at first sight, many who hadn’t heard about Romeo were freaked out about a wolf who wanted to play with their family dog.
Some Visitors Were Nervous
While all of the locals knew that Romeo was harmless, some of the visitors were anxious about being so close to a wild animal. It’s difficult to put all of your trust into a wolf, especially a wolf as big and as strong as Romeo.
There are so many stories and folktales about “big bad wolves.” In reality, wolves aren’t bad at all. They’re just living their lives according to insticnt.
All Good Things Come To An End
Romeo “was downright relaxed and tolerant from the start,” Nick said, “as if he had dropped out of the sky like a unicorn.” Romeo had built friendships with all kinds of dogs, from border collies, to laboradors, to poodles.
Unfortunately, some friendships aren’t built to last forever. Eventually, everything has its end point. Romeo’s time at Mendenhall Glacier Park was coming to a close. Romeo was about to suffer a fate similar to his namesake.
Keep reading to learn how Romeo met his tragic end.
A Tragedy Of Shakespearean Proportions
Romeo was named after a figure in a Shakespearean tragedy, and sadly, he too would suffer a tragic end. In 2009 Tragically, in 2009, Romeo was shot and killed by hunters.
Everyone who lived around Mendenhall Glacier Park felt the immense loss of a dear friend. The residents of Juneau decided to have a memorial service for Romeo, and they even had a plaque made in his memory. This lone wolf turned pack animal will never be forgotten.
A Fitting Tribute
That plaque is still standing in Juneau. If you ever travel to Alaska, you should visit the place where Romeo once roamed. The residents of that beautiful city plan on keeping the plaque up for years to come.
On the plaque are the words: “Romeo 2003-2009. The spirit of Juneau’s friendly black wolf lives on in this wild place.” There’s an image of Romeo on the plaque right above the inscription.
He’ll Live On Forever In Their Hearts
Even though Romeo isn’t around anymore, he made a lasting impression on all of the residents of Juneau. Nick enjoyed getting to know Romeo, and he’s pretty sure Dakotah enjoyed being his friend too.
Even though Romeo was a wild animal, he was one of the friendliest animals that Nick had ever met. Even though hunting is sometimes necessary, Romeo wasn’t shot for food. Let’s all be more aware of the damage we’re doing to this planet and all of its beautiful creatures.
Romeo’s Story Will Persist
Shortly after Romeo passed away, Nick documented his relationship with his dear animal friend in a book called A Wolf Called Romeo. If you want to know more about how Romeo got along with the people and dogs of Juneau, definitely pick up a copy of Nick’s book.
Alaska is an incredible place that’s full of stories about animals bonding with human beings. Not too far from where Nick lives, a woman had her very own wild encounter…
Keep reading to learn about another Alaskan who had a run in with some wild creatures.
Another Alaska Resident Who Ran Into Some Wildlife
Pam Aus lives in Unalaska, Alaska. Part of the reason that she chose to live there was because of the vast array of animal species she could see right from her front porch. Pam was used to seeing wildlife around her home.
She often saw caribou passing through, and rabbits and hares also made frequent appearances. Pam couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. She loved her country home and all of the animals that lived around her.
Could It Be A New Animal Visitor?
One day, Pam heard strange noises coming from right outside her house that she didn’t quite recognize. She assumed that an animal must have been making all of that noise, but she didn’t know for sure. She was just hoping it wasn’t an intruder.
Still, Pam was curious about the noise, so she walked towards it cautiously. If it was an animal, she didn’t want to startle it or cause it to attack her.
Pam Decided To Investigate
Pam decided to move closer to where the sound was coming from. She realized all the commotion was coming from right on her front porch. She started to look towards her porch to see if she could figure out who or what was moving around out there.
Initially, she moved very slowly just in case it was an intruder. She didn’t want to attract any attention to herself. Pam was a little bit nervous.
Keep reading to find out who or what was behind all of that noise.
Nothing Seemed Unusual At First
When she got to her porch, the first thing she saw was her cat, Gizmo. Gizmo was totally allowed to be on the porch, so nothing about that was out of the ordinary. Gizmo spent time both indoors and outdoors.
For a second, Pam thought that it was Gizo making all of that noise, but she kept hearing the sound even though Gizmo was sitting still. It must be some other kind of creature.
Gizmo Wasn’t Fazed At All
Pam looked at Gizmo and Gizmo looked at Pam and then Gizmo went right back to minding his own business. He obviously wasn’t what was behind all of that noise. But if it wasn’t Gizmo, what was it?
Pam had another cat. Maybe that cat was making that weird sound. But it wasn’t a sound that Pam had ever heard her cats make before. She was thinking that it was probably some other kind of animal.
Where Was The Second Cat?
Pam’s other cat is named Suitcase, which is the best name for a cat maybe ever. At first, Pam couldn’t find Suitcase anywhere. Suitcase and Gizmo usually stayed close together, but on this day, Suitcase was nowhere to be found.
Maybe it really was suitcase behind all of that noise— but then Suitcase suddenly jumped onto the porch. With both of the cats accounted for, Pam still wasn’t sure what was making all of that sound.
Will This Mystery Ever Get Solved?
The noises were starting to die down and it seemed like Pam was alone with her cats who liked to lounge in the snow. Pam had no idea who or what was causing all of the commotions earlier, but for now, everything seemed to be pretty calm in Unalaska, Alaska.
Pam was starting to think that she’d never figure out what all the fuss was about. She was ready to just forget the whole thing.
What Pam saw next totally took her by surprise. Read on to find out what it was.
Something She Missed The First Time
Pam was ready to go back inside when Gizmo got up and walked toward the other side of the porch. That’s when Pam saw something she missed the first time she searched her porch. There was a huge, gorgeous bald eagle just sitting on the ledge around her home.
Pam had seen bald eagles in Alaska before, but she had never seen one this close to her before. The sight of it took her breath away.
Pam Stopped And Stared
Pam was in complete awe. She didn’t dare move a muscle because she didn’t want to scare away the creature. She just wanted to look at it for a while and snap a few pictures of it sitting on her porch.
Then she remembered that eagles like to eat mammals that are about the size of her cats. This eagle had awfully big talons, and he was getting pretty close to Gizmo.
The Eagle Wasn’t Alone
Gizmo did’t seem to mind the eagle’s presence. Neither did suitcase. Pam was pretty sure that the eagle wouldn’t try to scoop up either of her cats (who were actually pretty chunky, and likely too heavy for an eagle to carry away.
Then Pam looked around and she saw a second bald eagle on the lamppost at the end of her driveway. Pam couldn’t believe that she was seeing two bald eagles in one day.
What’s This? Another Visitor?
All of a sudden, Pam heard a rustling noise that was different from the noise she heard earlier. When she turned around, she saw that a red, fluffy fox was walking right onto her front porch. Pam’s house was turning into Noah’s Ark! She was half expecting there to be a second fox lurking in the distance.
Pam posted about this encounter on social media. She wrote,”Our fox and eagles and cats basically get along just fine here. They aren’t always out to attack and kill each other.” We can all learn something from these interspecies friendships. If cats and eagles and foxes and dogs and wolves can get along, so can we.