A starving wolf stalked a woman and her dog for 12 hours. Then along came a bear.

Joane Barnaby

Joanne Barnaby, left, is reunited with Tammy Caudron after 18 hours in the Canadian bush.

June 17, 2016

Joanne Barnaby was deep in the deadfall, smeared in mosquitoes and blood, dehydrated and near exhaustion, when she heard the call of a mama bear searching for its cub.

Barnaby couldn’t believe her luck.

Twelve hours earlier, she had been picking mushrooms in the remote Canadian wilderness when she had heard a growl behind her. She turned around and saw Joey, her faithful mutt, locked in a snarling standoff with a skinny black wolf.

For twelve hours, the wolf had pursued Barnaby and her dog through the wildfire-scorched forests of the Northwest Territories.

And for twelve hours, the starving animal had tried to separate Barnaby and Joey, driving them all deeper into the bush.

Night settled around Barnaby, hiding the swarms of mosquitoes that blanketed her arms, legs and face.

And still the wolf snapped and growled, waiting for the woman or her dog to drop their guard.

Barnaby was near collapse when dawn began to creep across the sky.

That’s when she heard the bear grunt.

And that’s when she got an idea.

It was an idea so outrageous, some critics would later accuse her of making the whole ordeal up.

Yet, Canadian officials and close friends confirm Barnaby was missing in the woods.

And she is sticking by her story that a preposterous idea — of pitting one predator against another — saved her life.

From hunting morels to being hunted

Joanne Barnaby knew better than to leave her gun at home.

She had grown up in the Northwest Territories, a huge and rugged region of Canada stretching north of Alberta to the Arctic Ocean. Part Dene Indian, or “mixed blood,” as she would say, Barnaby spent much of her childhood in a residential school, run by the Catholic church and designed to assimilate Inuits into mainstream Canadian culture.

“They tried to take the Indian out of us,” she told The Washington Post.

When she grew up, Barnaby chose to work with indigenous communities. She often went hunting and hiking through the wildlife-rich forests, always remembering to pack her rifle.

On the morning of June 10, she and a friend, Tammy Caudron, decided to hunt for morels. They climbed into Barnaby’s truck and drove east from Hay River along the highway.

Barnaby didn’t want her rifle on her back as she stooped to pick up the pricey mushrooms.

So she left it behind.

“It was a stupid mistake,” she said. “I paid a big price.”

The incredible story of how that small mistake nearly cost Barnaby her life was first reported by CBC Wednesday. Barnaby spoke to The Post by phone on Wednesday night.

Barnaby parked her truck near the highway at around 11 a.m. The two foragers then walked in different directions in search of morels. Barnaby had with her a basket, a can of beer and Joey, her black and yellow mutt.

Joey was Barnaby’s guard dog. When a bear would approach her log cabin-style house in Hay River, Joey would race outside and chase them off.

So when, after about five hours of mushroom hunting, Barnaby heard a growl behind, she knew there could be trouble.

She turned around and saw Joey muzzle-to-muzzle with a black wolf.

The wolf was skinny — probably cast out of its pack, Barnaby thought — but still twice the size of Joey. And it was between her and the highway.

“He looked old to me, but he was smart,” she said. “It took me a while to realize how smart he was, and that he was actually being very, very strategic in trying to separate me from my dog and wear me down. I don’t think he was strong enough to take us both on. And I think he knew that.”

Joey tried to scare away the wolf, as he did with bears, but it didn’t work. The wolf was just watching them, legs spread apart as if ready to pounce, lips curled back to show sharp teeth.

“It scared the hell out of me,” Barnaby said.

The wolf was hunting her. Whenever Barnaby tried to angle back toward the highway and her truck, the animal cut her off. She found herself drifting deeper into the woods.

“He was directing me. There was no question about it. He was pushing me further and further from the highway,” she said. “He was stalking me. He was literally stalking me.”

That’s when it dawned on her.

She might die.

‘Jo knows the bush’

Tammy Caudron didn’t worry when she walked back to the truck and found it empty. She and Barnaby had a system. Caudron honked the horn, had something to eat and waited.

When Barnaby didn’t emerge from the forest, Caudron decided to go back to picking morels. She returned an hour later with more mushrooms, but there was no Barnaby.

This is not good, she thought.

Caudron walked into the woods, yelling and whistling.

Nothing.

She walked back to the truck and honked the horn.

Nothing.

Now she started to panic.

Caudron flagged down a passing truck. When she told the men inside who was missing, they didn’t seem too concerned.

“Jo knows the bush,” one said.

It was true. Joanne Barnaby knew these woods better than almost anyone. It was nearly impossible that she had gotten lost.

But Caudron worried that her friend had broken a leg or, worst of all, encountered an animal Joey couldn’t scare off.

The men agreed to help. They spread out in the woods, firing their shotguns to alert Barnaby to their location.

Barnaby knew where she was, however. She even heard a few of the gunshots.

But she was powerless to heed them.

A dangerous gamble

As the wolf drove Barnaby and Joey deeper into the woods, the landscape shifted. The relatively flat, burned forest floor gave way to thicker foliage.

Dusk fell and still the animal pursued them. Barnaby had only her now empty beer can: no food, no water. A cloud of mosquitoes followed her. Even as the wolf watched, Barnaby developed a habit of rubbing her hands over her exposed face, arms and legs.

“My hands were just full of blood and mosquitoes,” she said. So many swarmed her face that “at some points it was hard to see.”

She tried rubbing poplar powder on her skin to keep the insects away, but it did little good.

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Posted on June 17, 2016, in Warrior Fieldcraft and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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