Outdoors

Wolves confront North Idaho woman in driveway

WILDLIFE — A North Idaho woman said she was confronted by at least four wolves as she walked alone up her rural driveway between Tensed and Plummer at dusk on Saturday.

Karen Calisterio, 52, was trudging up the snow-plugged lane when she saw two dogs about 200 yards ahead near her house. At first she thought they were her two cow dogs coming to greet her.

“Then I saw two more of them, and all four were walking toward me,” she said.

“That’s when I said, ‘Oh shit, I’m alone and I’m in trouble.’”

Read on to get her full account of the next 20 minutes of terror.

Wolf encounter report– Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010
Name: Karen Calisterio
Time: Approximately 4:35 p.m.
Place: Off Moses Mountain Road between Tensed and Plummer, Idaho
Conditions: Dusk, snowing, snow covered ground

 

About 4:30 p.m., I, Karen Calisterio, and my husband, Ed Calisterio, arrived home from Coeur d’Alene to find our driveway too deep in snow to drive our car in without risking getting stuck. My husband decided not to take a chance and went to a friend’s house nearby (about 3‐1/2 miles) to borrow his plow to clear the driveway. I was tired and wanted to go on home while he did this so I said I would just walk up to the house while he went to get the plow.

 

Our driveway is about 1/3 mile long from mailbox to house. I had walked up our driveway before and had my snow boots on and a warm coat so figured I would be fine. I was carrying my large canvas purse so checked the mailbox, put the mail in my purse and started up the driveway. I was about ¼ of the way up the driveway when I heard my phone ringing in my purse and tried digging for it but couldn’t find it in time to answer it. From my call log on my phone that call came in at 4:33 p.m.

After standing there for a few minutes fumbling through my purse to find my phone, I saw it was a friend and figured I’d just call them back when I got to the house as it was getting dark. I decided to put my phone in my pocket so I wouldn’t have to dig for it again in case Ed needed to call me for any reason.

As I started up the driveway again, I saw, what I thought was two dogs at the crest of the driveway before it turned to go to the house. At first I thought it was my two dogs, but they seemed too big to be my dogs. I thought well maybe because I’m looking uphill at them and it’s getting dark they just look bigger.

However, they just stood there and didn’t bark which I thought was odd behavior for them. They usually bark at everything. I called out to them, but they didn’t respond like my dogs normally do and they still didn’t bark, but they started walking towards me.

Then suddenly I saw two more coming with them and instantly said to myself, “Oh shit, I don’t have four dogs; these are wolves.”

I grabbed my phone out of my pocket and called my husband in a frantic and said, “Get back here fast, there are wolves in the driveway and they’re coming towards me.”

He said to keep my phone in my hand, don’t panic and he was turning around to come back. This call was placed at 4:37 PM and lasted 27 seconds.

 

For a second, I started to turn and run back down the driveway then thought, “I don’t think I’m supposed to run.”

Then I started crying, saying to myself, “I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do.”

I turned back around so could keep watching the wolves and walked backwards as fast as I could. They kept coming toward me, but they didn’t appear to be running. It was getting dark fast.

 

At 4:39, I tried calling a neighbor but he didn’t answer.

At 4:40 my husband called back and said that while he was rushing to get back, he slid into a ditch and was stuck at the bottom of the mountain and had help coming and would be there as fast as he could get there and to stay calm. This call lasted 11 seconds.

The wolves then went into the bushes. I couldn’t see them anymore and I couldn’t tell where they went or what they were doing.

At 4:41 he called me again to make sure I was still OK and I stayed on the phone with him for 30 seconds. My phone was nearly dead and I was trying to preserve all the battery I had.

It seemed like an eternity and I was scared to death that the wolves had circled me in the surrounding bushes.

 

I had a long wool coat on and remember thinking, “I wonder if that would protect me from their sharp teeth.”

I prayed and I cried. At that point I really thought I was going to be eaten alive.

 

At 4:43, I finally reached another neighbor by phone who said she’d be there as fast as she could get there. I stayed on the phone with her for 43 seconds. She came quickly and I could see her lights coming but it seemed like an eternity. I started moving as fast as I could to the end of the driveway hoping they’d be afraid to attack me if they heard her coming.

 

At 4:49 p.m., my husband called me back, but it went straight to voice mail.

At 4:53, I called my husband and told him that the neighbor had got their and that I was safe and that she had 4‐wheel drive and was taking me to the house. He said that he was on his way up the hill with the friend who was bringing the plow but said he’d have to go back down and get the car after they plowed the driveway and made sure I was OK.

As my neighbor was driving me up the driveway to the house we could see all the tracks in the headlights. You could clearly see how far they had advanced towards me before going into the bushes.

When I got to the house I found my dogs to be under the house. It took quite a bit of coaxing to get them to come out.

 

When my husband and another friend got there, they plowed the driveway on their way up but said they saw the tracks going off to the side. My husband got his four‐wheel-drive pickup and went back down to pull the car out of the ditch and a neighbor drove my car home. It continued snowing.

We went down with a flashlight and guns and tried to see if we could tell where they went or where they came from but the snow had covered most of their tracks. There were tons of tracks going in all directions but not well defined, mostly indentations in the snow at this point since it had continued snowing.

I was hoping to be able to whether they had they circled me when they went into the bushes, or whether they had they taken off. (Tracking later showed that they had taken off after approaching to where Karen had begun backing down the lane.)

Our hayfield is a frequent wintering ground for area elk as it borders forest land.

Just a few days before Thanksgiving, we had counted about 40 head of elk in the field next to our house at dusk.

We also have a large pond on the lower side of our driveway where the deer and elk water. We think it was the elk herds in the area that may have drawn the wolf packs in.

 

This was the most frightened I can ever remember being. I will never walk to my mailbox again. If I breakdown, I will never leave my car.




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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.


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