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Wolf encounters

 
Photo Marko Mänd
Translation: Liis
 
“We should respect all wild animals,” says Vaike Kukk, who received magazine Loodusesõber’s award for the best wolf memory from cattle shepherding among the stories that were collected during the Year of the Wolf. ”Each animal has its place in nature, and so does the wolf. We don’t know what the place is before the animal is gone”.  Vaike herself raises goats since many years, but she doesn't fear wolf attacks on her favourites. Her point of view is that an owner must protect his wards himself, and take forest wildlife in account. Vaike is bothered by roe deer for instance  that devoured all the shoots in her bilberry garden. “Because of the young roe bucks we had to build a fence around the bilberries,” she says, and maintains that it must be normal to care for the protection of one’s livestock and garden.
 
How many wolves should there be in our forests? “A reasonable number, I think. Not too many, not too few,” Vaike says.
 
Vaike Kukk at the final of the Year of the Wolf in the Estonia Concert Hall in December 2013. Photo Mats Kangur
 
Wolf stories
 
My home is in the middle of a forest at the outskirts of a bog. An old farmhouse in a clearing, with an old barn and a new cattle barn (woodshed, hay loft, cattle shed and scullery, all under one roof). Around are fields. Behind the cattle barn pasture. Beyond the courtyard a pond, and beyond that more pastures.
 
Story from 1949–1950
 
It was a calm, hot summer day. I don’t remember any longer why Mother sent me to the cattle barn, probably to fetch something.
 
I skipped to the barn. In front of it was a fenced-in cattle yard from where a path led to the pasture. I didn’t bother to open the cattleyard gates, and climbed across the gate. Just as I was sitting atop the gate I stopped and looked around. First came the sheep, then Maasik, the heifer, and finally Laura, a black-and-white cow with large splayed horns.
 
The sheep went into the barn, the heifer too, and then I saw a big grey Alsatian dog. It came at a nice trot behind Laura. Just like a shepherd who drives his herd home for midday.
 
A moment of thinking – in this village nobody has an Alsatian, except for my uncle. But this …. I started to scold and admonish it – So-where-do-you-come-from and Get-yourself-back-home and so on. I probably shouted quite loudly and scolded it. Laura went into the cattle barn. The dog stopped and looked towards the barn, then at me. I was still sitting astride the gate. I scolded even more and egged my little dog to attack it. The animal stood looking at the barn, and then again at me for one more moment, and then turned about and went ambling away into the pasture and disappeared into the forest. Tuti, our little furry mutt, went after it. But Tuti behaved strangely, keeping a certain distance, going step by step. Barking woof! and then again every little while woof!. When Tuti already had reached the pasture I was still astraggle the gate. Only then did I begin to realise that this was a wolf. I started to call Tuti back, I was afraid that it might take Tuti. I got down from the gate, and as the first thing closed the barn door so that the wolf would not get in.
 
Later, when I told Mother about the large dog, she said that when she had gone to milk Laura, there was a long bleeding wound on Laura’s chest. Laura was like a mother for her herd, she protected all. Apparently Laura had confronted the wolf, how else could she have been wounded.
 
Another story
 
One say I was coming home on foot from Eidapere (8 kilometres). Getting to our village across the bog, a little farther on from the forester’s, a dense state forest grew on both sides of the road. As I got there I suddenly heard a faint crackle. I listened, stood still. The forest rustled at my back, I didn’t hear anything but the rustling. I started to walk again but all the time there was a feeling that someone was following me. I couldn’t get rid of this feeling before I got from the forest into the open landscape near home. It was strange. You know and feel with all your body and senses that somebody is trailing you. You don’t see him but you feel. I have gone down this road hundreds of times, in mornings, late in evenings, at midday, even at night, but I have never felt that someone has been following me.
 
Story from 1960–1966
 
This was a time when father was already at home. The kolkhoz heifers were in the pasture. There were no longer any people living in the other end of the village, and their farmland was used for the heifers to graze on. One day or night wolves had killed one or two heifers. The kolkhoz wanted to put men out to ambush the wolves. The hunters however maintained that it was their duty to go hunting for the wolves. And a quarrel broke out. The result was that one and then another promised to go, but while the quarrelling went on, the wolves acted and took their share … The hunters and the kolkhoz men were left without wolves ...
 
These are my wolf stories.
Vaike Kukk
Haaviku farm at Lake Võrtsjärv
 
 
Comments by wolf researcher  Peep Männil:
 
First story
 
Wolves, particularly lone individuals, shy off from attacking larger animals. Even now mostly sheep are killed among domestic animals, and among bovines only young animals. Larger and/or more aggressive animals in the flock are avoided by the wolf, and it waits for a smaller individual to get separated from the herd. That time too the wolf probably waited for a favourable opportunity but it did not come, and so the wolf moved along with the herd to the cattle barn. As a rule a wolf attacks larger animals such as cows or elks from behind, and so I have some doubt that the wound on Laura’s chest was caused by a wolf’s fangs.
 
Second story
 
Wolves sometimes have a habit of accompanying humans. Whether they do so from curiosity or some other reason is not known. But it is certainly not tied to the wolf seeing the human as a prey. People of old believed of this behaviour that the wolf protected people from evil spirits.