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Memorable Caribou Encounter

WietgrefeBy Seth Wietgrefe

-- It began with an 11-hour drive north of Fairbanks, Alaska. The month was December and the weather was bitter - 30 below zero with whiteout snow blinding us. My friend, Dave, and I hiked several miles from the road to hunt caribou with our bows. We arrived at our destination, which was to be our camp. So under the dark sky of three in the afternoon and in a howling wind, we set up our tent and managed to boil some water to make a bite to eat. After barely filling our bellies we decided to sack out for the night.

Photo: A caribou herd crossing Alaska's frozen wilderness.

The following morning, we began hunting our quarry - the majestic caribou. The sun was still well below the horizon even though it was 9:30 in the morning. As we made our way over some hills and along a ridgeline, we spotted something very unusual. Upon closer inspection with our binoculars, we concluded that we had come across a caribou carcass. We were quite certain that the caribou was dead, and yet there seemed to be a flicker of life.

Completely confused with what we were seeing, we decided to get closer to further investigate. As we approached the carcass, we still could not quite make out what was causing this life-like movement. It definitely was not the wind and the caribou lay completely still. Suddenly, when we were within 50 yards of the carcass, a head popped up. Not the head of the caribou, instead it was the head of the elusive wolverine. The wolverine stared at us as we did likewise. After several minutes of pure inquisition, the wolverine finished tearing of a hind leg from the carcass and began to carry it off, all the while keeping a watchful eye on his odd observers.

This was the first and only wolverine that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting in the wild. Not many people have the good fortune to see a wolverine acting naturally in its environment. I am very grateful for this chance encounter. I definitely maintain that this was most likely my most memorable hunt though we never did harvest our caribou.

Seth Wietgrefe
North Pole, Alaska


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