The daily commute can be a drag, but when it involves cruising a Canadian highway, things can get a little wild.
This incredible clip was filmed in Canada's Northwest Territories (NWT) by local resident Rhonda Miller, who initially thought the black-morph gray wolves were humans ... and then bears. It wasn't until she caught up to the running canids that the real picture came into focus.
"It was just past the Stagg River," she wrote on Facebook. "They were running flat-out and not concerned about me at all. It was amazing to see them!"
While the wolves' actual speed is tricky to gauge, Miller believes she was driving between 25 and 30 miles per hour at the start of the encounter. She then slowed and moved over, which is always the right course of action when animals step out of the wild and onto the tarmac. Gray wolves have been known to run up to 38 miles per hour in quick sprints, so it's very possible that her estimates were accurate.
According to Miller, the wolves were still running when they disappeared out of view. "I think just the power of them and the beauty of them, seeing them running like that ... is pretty inspiring," she told CBC News.
Miller's reaction to her four-legged neighbours is refreshing, as encounters like this one often inspire fear. And yet despite their bad reputation, wolves tend to steer clear of people: in fact, studies have shown that (on average) a wolf will run away from any humans who approach closer than 200 metres.
NWT wolf populations are generally considered stable, but threats to their wellbeing do exist. There's still a lot we don't know about these predators, including how many of them are out there. Our best guess puts wolf density in the area at about one per 40-350 square miles, and biologists are concerned about the effects of declining ungulate populations and legal hunting.
Caribou, musk oxen and moose make up the bulk of Canadian wolf diets, though smaller prey like bighorn sheep, mountain goat, beaver and Arctic hares are sometimes taken as well. These predators are a natural – and important – part of a healthy ecosystem, so sightings like this one are always a good sign.
Top header image: Shutterstock