Guidance on Avoiding Conflict with Wolves

Jill Crammond

If you see a wolf, be aggressive in your behavior.

It’s easy to forget there are rules for living with wolves, especially on nights when the moon shines like this. Bold. Bright. Not yellow, but the almond of her dead husband’s eyes. Nights like these, the mountains’ shadows hump in the shape of animals mating. It’s even easier to forget there are wolves living just outside her back door, slinking past her still warm firepit, nosing under her red checked tablecloth. They lick what tendrils she’s left behind, paw the dark morsels abandoned on the ground after dinner. 

 

Fence yards to deter wolves.

Here in the mountains, men call these invaders coyotes. But she smells the lie. She knows they are really wolves. Hulking, matted, brooding. Their hollow call pierces her heart like the gnaw and nuzzle of the first baby’s hungry gums. In the dark of night, alone in her wide bed, she wants to wrap the wolves in her arms, whisper sweet words in their pointed ears. She wants to taste the earth of their fur on her lips. But. She knows not to trust a marauder in wolf’s clothing. Knows not to trust the mailman when he rings her doorbell, offers her a package she didn’t order. She knows to turn her back on the UPS driver attempting to deliver a king size mattress when she is very clearly a queen.

 

If wolves associate food sources such as garbage with people, wolves may lose their natural fear of humans.

When they first married, she tried cooking for him. He snapped and snarled, said her cooking was garbage. She began pouring a glass of wine each time he pawed her food from the table to the floor. At some point, she began talking to herself. What if I’m something ugly? What if I held the knife wrong? What if I poured too much into his drink? What if I arrive late to the funeral? What if I don’t mourn right?

 

Teach children to appreciate wolves from a distance.

Two months ago, it was February. She filled the windows with paper hearts, remembered past seasons, filling the children’s lunch boxes with candy. Love Me. I Luv U. Never Leave Me. Stay. She sang her daughter lullabies under her breath while the girl, coarse brown hair covering her eyes, texted the latest boyfriend. She made her son’s favorite dinners. Night after night he came home from stuffing hides at the local taxidermy shop, too full of bones and sawdust to eat. Everyone knew it was February. Everyone knew it was mating season. Nights after the children were long caved up in their rooms, she sat outside in her pink nightgown, waiting for the one.

 

Do not allow pets or children to run free.

Mating season always depends on the weather. On the amount of prey circling the mountains, the degree of longing in the houses surrounding the town.  First mating, then pup raising, then dispersal. Sometimes the horrible fathers leave. Sometimes the sad mothers trail after their young, watching and wondering where they learned to rip open a human heart so easily. Once, she refused to cook the deer heart he brought home in a sopping sack. For days he growled at her under his breath.

 

Wolves are typically secretive and like areas where they can hide. Remove brush and tall grass.

Her dead husband always avoided people. Camouflage was his weapon of choice: a word carefully hidden beneath his beard, a casual shove blurred beneath his thick wool coat. The real problem was disguising his fur. The broad backs of his hands sported matted clumps of black and grey whorls. Clean me, he would snarl, wiping one hand after the other across her dry lips.  One day she found him on the ground next to the dog, panting in great gasps, snipping clumps of fur with a small pair of scissors. She offered to trim his beard, sat him on a stool, faced him away from the bathroom mirror.

 

Losing their natural fear of humans increases the potential for conflicts with wolves.

Her dead husband wrote a postcard. In her own handwriting he wrote:

Don’t worry, wife, about sharpening the knives. Unfortunate wedding gift. Bad luck. Bad luck. Knives are nothing more than counter-burden, and I never meant to lock you in the closet, our house being round so you could never hide. I wanted you to feel safe in plain sight, safe in your nightgown when I was hungry, safe in your night when I was a heavy flashlight forbidding you shadow. Remember the Maglite your father gave you for Christmas that year? Remember its heft when the power went out? Remember the power when your breath ran out? Taking in air, as I am, from the depth and breadth of a garden never planted is a chore, but one I can manage.

She still doesn’t know how he managed to fit so much on the back of a tiny card, but she keeps it tucked inside her bra, just in case.

 

Do not allow wolves to approach. If a wolf does approach, throw sticks or stones.

Is he dead? Did I kill him? Are the children still home? Whose voice keeps calling? The wolves’ howling makes it hard to sleep at night. She thinks the answer might be in the garden. By now, the moon is lone, a single claw behind clouds. She stumbles in the dark yard, sniffs the air to locate the freshly turned soil, its copper breeze. She holds her hands out in front of her, catches herself before she falls. The knife will pry open the trap. Or the trap will set her free. If only the wolves would stop howling, she could remember where she left the shovel.

Jill Crammond’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Limp Wrist, Tinderbox Poetry, Mom Egg Review, Pidgeonholes, Unbroken Journal, Mother Mary Come to Me Anthology, Fiolet & Wing: An Anthology of Domestic Fabulist Poetry, and others. Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her chapbook, Handbook for Unwell Mothers, is forthcoming in May 2023 from Finishing Line Press. She lives in upstate NY where she teaches art and preK at a nature-based school.

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