Romeo: the friendly wolf

According to Nick Jans, the wolf would pace Animal World

The sad story of an open-hearted wolf

While walking in the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area, Nick and Sherrie Jans came across a young black wolf.  The wolf immediately started heading in their direction.  Their dog called Dakota broke from her harness and started beelining forwards the massive predator.  Face to face a few feet apart, they looked at each other out curiously, each with no aggression in their body language.  Dakota eventually trekked back to her owners and the three went on their way.  A local skier reported a similarly playful encounter with the wolf and her dog days later.

The Jans’ began to seek out the wolf on their walks, and Nick, a renowned wildlife photographer, began documenting this anomaly of behavior.  It was clear that the wolf loved his canine cousins, but especially took a liking to Dakota.  According to Nick Jans, the wolf would pace, whine, and go absolutely ballistic with excitement to play with his Labrador buddy.  From his loving nature, Sherrie Jans named the wolf,  Romeo and the name stuck instantly.

Apparently, word spreads quickly about a friendly wolf.  Visitors from out of town would venture to Juneau just to try to see Romeo for themselves.  Crowds of people make lots of household dogs (and people) nervous, but Romeo remained poised and composed while people scrambled to see him in paparazzi-like fashion.

As friendly as he was, he didn’t exactly have a great sense of boundaries.  He would often try to follow the Jans’ home to spend try to spend some more time with his furry pal.  At the end of the day, Romeo was still a wild animal.  The Jans would have to throw snow at Romeo when he got too close to their property.Make no mistake, Romeo was making the most of all the attention.  His accessibility and consistency made him every bit of a local celebrity.

“On a typical winter day, he’d be in position before the first light to meet the pre-work and early dog walking crowd, as if he’d punched a time clock; of course, he preferred his favorites, but in a pinch, others would do” said Nick Jans.

Romeo’s area had plenty of food, no other predatory threats, and plenty of wide-open space.  He occupied his territory for five years.  As beloved as he was by many, his presence was far from uncontroversial.  Alaskans were in the midst of a dispute about potentially limiting the state’s wolf population.

Tragically, Romeo was killed by hunters in September of 2009.  His death caused a public outcry. The two men responsible were arrested, placed on probation, and had their hunting and fishing licenses temporarily revoked.   A memorial service was held for Romeo in November 2010, where a plaque was unveiled in his honor.

People will tell Romeo’s story in bigger platforms.  Nick Jans went on to release Romeo’s story in his New York Times bestseller, A Wolf Called Romeo. But it also serves as a reminder that though these are wild animals, they share a considerable amount of DNA with our four-legged whippersnappers.



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