Temela Pitsiulak knows the terrifying feeling of being trapped under a wolf, fighting for his life.
Pitsiulak was hunting caribou when he had the extraordinary encounter with the predator in July 2016. Six years later, he recounts his traumatizing experience in an interview with Nunavut News.
“We were outside of Kinngait. There was a few boats that went to Saqva for the caribou hunt, before we reached the camp site. A lot of us men got dropped off to the land so we could walk and look for caribou on our way to the camp site,” recalls Pitsiulak, who is captain of Kinngait’s fire department.
At that moment, Pitsiulak took a shortcut across the beach and ended up being stuck, as water rapidly started flowing in on the path he wanted to take.
“I turned back but the water was just as deep the way I went too so I decided to climb the biggest boulder and wait for the boats to show up. Luckily, one of the captains saw me standing on top of a rock and they got to me right on time” he says.
The team ended up reaching the base camp that day and rested in hopes of finding caribou in the morning.
The following day, Pitsiulak and his friends separated and walked the land to try and find some game. After hours of searching, Pitsiulak didn’t have any luck in finding caribou so he decided to return to camp.
“I didn’t see one that day so I went back to the camp and had food and a coffee. After that, I left my tent and started walking towards where the other guys were but turned back to pick up my pocket knife just in case I had to help butcher a caribou,” remembers Pitsiulak.
Once he got back on his way, he stumbled upon one of his friends, lugging part of a carcass.
“I found one of them and he had a nice fat caribou that he was carrying on his shoulders so I ran to him. When I got to him I said, ‘All right, we will have the best boiled meat tonight,’ and I took a chunk of fat out of what my friend carried.”
He then asked him where the rest of the animal was to help carry the remainder of the harvest to camp. His friend replied, “Let’s pick it up tomorrow. I left it on top of a big boulder.”
Pitsiulak was worried birds would eat all the fat overnight, so he decided to go get the rest of the animal by himself before heading back to camp. After being directed to the location, he went on his way, encouraged by the tasty bits of fat he had received from his friend’s hunt.
Jumped by the wolf
“I started to walk up towards it while munching on a chunk of caribou fat. About 15 minutes after splitting with my buddy, in the corner of my eye I saw something white coming towards me really fast. I looked and it was an Arctic wolf running towards me! I started running away from it while still looking at it and soon after… I tripped on a rock because I was not looking where I ran and I was looking at the wolf instead,” he recalls.
“I was on my back when the wolf jumped on top of me. I blocked my face with both my arms fists up, elbows down, and it bit my arm. I got up really fast, it had my left arm but it did not bite through it.”
Although his arm was still free, he recalls the wolf having a really good grip on his hood and jacket sleeve.
“Every time I tried to pull off from its grip, the wolf just kept getting closer, so I started pushing instead. While pushing it away, I remembered I had a pocket knife in my right side jacket pocket,” he said.
The pocket was zipped and he was unsuccessful in getting it open while being jostled by the powerful predator.
“I pushed the wolf away from me hard… that was the only way I was able to keep my jacket from going up and down while trying to open the pocket. I laid on my jacket so I was able to unzip the pocket and grab my pocket knife. I was lucky it was the kind of knife you can open with just your thumb,” Pitsiulak recalls. “First swing I missed the wolf and almost got my arm instead. At that point, every time I pulled the wolf got very close to me so I pulled hard and stabbed it right over the nose.
“I can never forget the noise the wolf was making when I stabbed it. It sounded like a wounded or hurt dog. It ran away so I started to run back to camp. After about 10 yards of running, I realized I only had one boot on, so I ran back and got my boot, and then ran all the way to camp.
“I feel very lucky to have survived these two incidents in two days at the camp,” he says.