The day began like any other; hot, despite being the middle of December. We headed out to the field to check camera traps set-up to study Indian wolves in Koppal, Karnataka. We were at the third stop for the day; having parked our jeep, we had to hike a short distance navigating boulders and thorny shrubs to get to the location of the camera trap. Checking the pictures, we found to our joy, that a wolf pack had been photographed. There was a pregnant female, one male and two pups! We noticed that most of the individuals had signs of mange, a type of skin disease. We waited for some time in the hope of seeing the pack. With no sign of the pack around, we began the hike back to the jeep.
The mud road for the most part was narrow and bumpy. Shankar anna, who was driving the vehicle, was taking the utmost care not to jerk the jeep around. All of a sudden, a dog bounded into the middle of the road, and thanks to Shankar anna’s mindful driving, he was able to stop the jeep smoothly. The dog crossed, and we waited to see if any other dogs were going to cross before moving.
And out she came. Silently, unexpectedly, out of the bushes.
The she-wolf was just as surprised to see us, as we were to see her. She stood there for about a minute or so, looking at us. Did the unexpected shock of seeing us stun her? Perhaps. She was the same pregnant female we had seen in the camera trap pictures. The mange– conspicuously sparse fur– was clearly visible on her legs now. She then crossed the road and vanished into the bushes.
It took us a minute or two to recover from the unexpected encounter. We waited for a few minutes to see if any other individual from the pack was going to follow. No other wolf or dog came out, and so we left. We could talk about nothing but the wolf on our way back.
The encounter had raised a lot of questions in our mind. Why was she alone? Could we do anything to stop the mange from spreading? Why was she with the dog? Or was it mere coincidence that she followed the dog out of the bushes?
I didn’t see a wolf again during my time there. But hopefully in the future when I go back, the pack would have grown. And maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll see the beautiful she-wolf again.