Walk with wolves in Golden, B.C.

Scrappy Dave, a sociable wolf who hikes with humans, shows off his running-in-deep-snow prowess...

Scrappy Dave, a sociable wolf who hikes with humans, shows off his running-in-deep-snow prowess near Golden, B.C. STEVE MACNAULL PHOTO

STEVE MACNAULL, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:39 PM ET

The grey wolf comes straight at us on the river trail.

From the opposite direction, the ghost-like white wolf charges from the snowy forest.

But, we're not terrified.

In fact, we're grinning ear to ear, snapping photos and thinking how lucky we are.

We are, after all, a group of five ordinary tourists doing the extraordinary.

We're taking part in the only hiking with wolves program in the world at the Northern Lights Wolf Centre in Golden, B.C.

First our group meets at the centre to check out Casey and Shelley Black's eight wolves in a big enclosure and get a safety briefing.

Shelley picks out Maya, the 14-year-old regal grey, and Scrappy Dave, the 21-month-old lanky looker, to accompany our group on the hike.

Maya and Scrappy Dave travel in Casey and Shelley's truck and we follow in our cars to nearby Crown land in the Blaeberry Valley.

The scenery is stunning in the sunshine and we start to hike along a trail bracketed by the Rocky Mountains to the east and the Purcell Mountains to the west.

The wolves show off.

Maya strikes a majestic pose along the Blaeberry River and Scrappy Dave demonstrates his speed by racing up and down the trail, and dodging in and out of the woods in deep snow.

"Everything is on wolf terms here," Shelley said.

"If one of these wolves comes up to you, go ahead pat them, otherwise leave them alone and just observe."

Maya is the most aloof. Shelley explains that Maya usually never gives anyone the time of day.

That's why I'm so flattered when Maya approaches, sniffs my hand and leans into my leg so I can run my left hand through the long and luxurious fur on her back. Then, just as quickly and quietly as she appeared, Maya moves on.

At the half-way point of the 90-minute hike we stop in a clearing where more-outgoing Scrappy Dave rolls in the snow and makes the rounds greet each of us personally.

The key for allowing such human-canis lupis interaction is imprinting.

Casey and Shelley buy only wolf pups born in captivity that will recognize the couple as the alpha male and female of the pack.

"We also provide them with food, which is important," Shelley said.

"So they put up with us. But they are still wolves. They won't wag their tail for you like a dog. They are not like a pet."

NEED TO KNOW

The Northern Lights Wolf Centre offers hiking with wolves year-round for $295 per couple. There's also a $12 interpretive program to view the wolves in their enclosure. See NorthernLightsWildlife.com.


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