Labrador Meets Wild Wolf Up Close and Personal

A Wild Wolf Meets A Lab And Stands Nose To Nose

I first read about this remarkable relationship between a wild wolf and a Labrador Retriever on Sunny Skyz, and after reading it, I was so intrigued about the story that I had to find out more.

But let me first give you a quick summary of the story:
The story, written by Alaskan wildlife photographer Nick Jans, starts in December of 2003 and tells about is a wild wolf named Romeo that became famous in Juneau, Alaska for being a lone wolf who played with all the locals’ dogs at the Mendenhall Glacier during the winter months. There’s even a special tribute to him there.
Jans chronicles an improbable series of relationships between the wolf and many of the people and dogs in Juneau in his book, “A Wolf Called Romeo”.

Romeo began to play regularly with several dogs whose owners frequented the area and continued coming back to the same spot at the edges of the city for many years to come.
“It’s one thing to have a tolerant meeting with a wild wolf that goes on for a matter of minutes,” Jans said. “But this went on for six years.”

Later, based on a quick search on the Internet, it became clear that the above story was based on a bigger and more in-depth article published on National Geographic.

The following is an excerpt taken from the article as it was published in the National Geographic Magazine.


How a Wolf Named Romeo Won Hearts in an Alaska Suburb

This is a wonderful book full of surprises that challenge cultural stereotypes of wolves, human beings, and dogs. 

The amazing thing about this animal was how relatively relaxed and tolerant he was. For want of a better word, the only thing I can say from a human perspective is that it amounted to friendship. 

If you look at that photo, you see the wolf is very much being a boy. Dakotah is very confident but giving a neutral signal with her tail straight out. There’s not the least hint of aggression. And that was very typical of how Romeo interacted with dogs.  

When you get down to the genetic difference between a wolf and a domestic dog, whether it is a Chihuahua or a Great Dane, all dogs are 99.98 per cent genetically a wolf. 

Indigenous peoples see wolves in a completely different way. As the ultimate hunter in a landscape of hunter-gatherers, wolves were revered. But many Inuit communities also had the same unreasoning fear of wolves that you see in European culture. 

From the time he first started showing up, it was reported in the paper, and it went from a handful of people to hundreds of people within a couple of months. 

A lot of people were fascinated by this animal and wanted to get close to him. He more or less allowed it, although he had a very elastic sense of personal space. Typically, most strangers couldn’t get closer than a hundred yards.

We must have been keeping him safe because he outlived a wild wolf by nearly three times. He clearly was catching and eating wild food with great skill.

Wolves that are socially tolerant to humans must have appeared to us not once, but many times over our history. The latest theories suggest there were multiple points of domestication. So there must have not been one wolf like Romeo. There must have been a number of wolves in the past that came to lie down by our fires. 

When you have a very intelligent, social animal like a wolf, play is an important practice and a rehearsal of necessary survival skills. For my friend Harry Robinson, who had an incredibly close relationship with the wolf, the wolf would bring out toys that he’d stashed. He clearly understood the same sort of behaviours that we see in dogs. Any highly intelligent animal will engage in play when they have leisure and aren’t engaged in survival. 

I am about to turn 60, and knowing him was the culmination of why I came to Alaska in the first place and an absolutely magical experience. His life and death are not something that I ever expect to get over. ~ Tens of thousands of years ago, our ancestors sought out wild canines with a frisky streak that lives on in modern dogs—particularly herding and hunting breeds.

This story was first published on Sunny Skyz

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Wolves that are socially tolerant to humans must have appeared to us not once, but many times over our history. The latest theories suggest there were multiple points of domestication. So there must have not been one wolf like Romeo. There must have been a number of wolves in the past that came to lie down by our fires.

When you have a very intelligent, social animal like a wolf, play is an important practice and a rehearsal of necessary survival skills. For my friend Harry Robinson, who had an incredibly close relationship with the wolf, the wolf would bring out toys that he’d stashed. He clearly understood the same sort of behaviors that we see in dogs. Any highly intelligent animal, will engage in play when they have leisure and aren’t engaged in survival.

I am about to turn 60, and knowing him was the culmination of why I came to Alaska in the first place and an absolutely magical experience. His life and death are not something that I ever expect to get over.

Not only did the wolf stay nearby – a rarity for animals that often cover hundreds of miles of territory – it also began playing with one of Jans’ dogs, a female Lab. Romeo began to play regularly with a number of dogs whose owners frequented the area.
Months turned into years and the wolf continued to hover on the edges of the city, an ambassador from the wilds beyond.

He became famous in Juneau, Alaska for being a lone wolf who played with all the locals dogs at the Mendenhall Glacier during the winter months.
Any highly intelligent animal, from killer whales to wolverines, will engage in play when they have leisure and aren’t engaged in survival.
We were these three species working out how to get along harmoniously.

” “For my friend Harry Robinson, who had an incredibly close relationship with the wolf, the wolf would bring out toys that he’d stashed,” Jans said.
“It’s one thing to have a tolerant meeting with a wild wolf that goes on for a matter of minutes,” Jans said.
“We were keeping our dog under control and she just slipped out from under my fingers, which were hooked around her collar,” Jans told National Geographic.

” “The amazing thing was Romeo’s understanding.

He clearly understood the same sort of behaviors that we see in dogs.

Photo credit: Nick Jans

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