Nick Jans


I started back toward camp in lengthening shadows. With the slippery going along that narrow, loose-cobbled beach near the Hubbard Glacier, I was focused more on my feet than the brushy cut bank a few yards to my right. Weaving toward the bank to get around a scattering of boulders, I glanced through a break in the alders, up into the eyes of a female grizzly and her yearling cub.

“Easy girl …let me see,” Vic Walker murmurs, gently prying the jaws of his canine patient and leaning close to inspect teeth, then peering into the back of her throat. He examines paws, feels along flanks and belly. For Walker, it’s an everyday veterinary moment—except the formidable jaws he’s spreading and the powerful musculature he’s probing belong to an adult wolf. Sure, Walker knows Isis well—for all but the first four weeks of her five-year life. But no matter that she’s captive-born, remarkably bonded to Walker and seemingly tame at this moment; a wolf is definitely not a domestic dog. Wolves are far more independent and complex, hard-wired to a feral consciousness that doesn’t tend to accept human dominion. Yet there are plenty of family pooches that are far less willing patients than Isis. Walker’s being paid a compliment of the highest order—one that he’s earned and doesn’t take lightly.…