White Wolf: When ridiculous optimism pays off

wolf on carcass

I think I’m crazy.

Certainly Jill thinks I’m nuts. My parents too.

Yet whenever I have a remarkable wildlife sighting, I just can’t resist, year after year, returning to the scene of the crime on the off chance lightening will strike twice and deliver a repeat performance.

Yes, the odds are low. Really low.

But for some animals – like cougars – you simply can’t camp out in a certain type of habitat and hope to spot a cat. They’re not bears. And unless you have a fresh lead for species like cats, is returning to the location of a previous sighting really that ridiculous?


In spite of the odds, ever since Jill and I saw a cougar in Jasper near Roche Miette, we’ve spent days – like sunrise to sunset full days – at the infamous pull out, hoping for winning-the-lottery type luck. Even my parents, when they’ve joined us in Jasper, have been forced to endure this hopeless waiting game.

bighorn ram

On the three year anniversary of our cougar sighting – while amusing ourselves photographing bighorn sheep in less than ideal lighting – my ridiculous optimism paid off.


Jill, I think, was gobsmacked that my strategy worked. Even I was blown away.

It wasn’t a cougar, but spotting a wolf in the middle of the day in the exact location, on the exact day we saw the mountain lion three years before was still a victory.

wolf in jasper

And it wasn’t just a wolf crossing a hillside.

It was a beautiful white wolf.

It stalked the bighorn herd.

wolf chasing bighorn sheep

It separated a bighorn from the herd.

wolf chasing dinner

It chased it – back and forth, up and down.

And then the wolf embarked on a long stand off, while the bighorn “hid” on a sheer ledge, calculating the odds of surviving a chase on the sheep’s terms.

wolf and bighorn ram

Smartly, the white wolf waved the white flag and – also to my amazement – trotted closer to the highway in order to drink and relax, riverside.

wolf in jasper alberta

Sadly, my camera – courtesy of an ongoing issue with my D800 body – refused to work and I missed the capturing the sequence (these are Jill’s images). But it was very cool to watch. Wolves chasing bighorn is truly not an everyday occurrence.

Of course, now having seen the wolf, we (at my insistence) increased our stake-out of the cougar haunt.

And again we were rewarded.

The wolf, clearly upset at being upstaged by the bighorn on its last pursuit of a meal, returned for a second attack on the sheep. This time with success.

wolf eating

We missed the kill by mere moments, but found the same white wolf struggling to eat the large bighorn ram as it slowly – lifelessly – slid into the pond below.

wolf eating bighorn sheep

Again, I won’t be winning any awards for these shots. It was after the sun had set and I was still battling my malfunctioning camera. But like the cougar from three years prior, it was remarkable to watch the strength of the lone white wolf – its muscles, its teeth – as it fought to pull the bighorn away from the water, and away from prying eyes.

Eventually, the wolf managed to drag a sizeable portion of the body into the forest and out of sight, but not before I was proven right…

Extreme optimism, sometimes, does pay off.

– D. Simon Jackson | GhostBearPhotography.com




5 thoughts on “White Wolf: When ridiculous optimism pays off

  1. Great capture, Simon. Yes, sometimes extreme optimism together with lots of patience, can yield great rewards. Love your photos and your article.

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