**Update: Eminent wolf biologist Dr Dave Mech told us he didn't see much from the video indicating a wolf-dog hybrid, though he said it's impossible to say from the clip alone. He suggested "a simpler explanation is that these particular animals have learned to chase moving objects for whatever reason that many dogs do," and noted that wolves in Yellowstone and Denali have occasionally tailed bicyclists.

Meanwhile, Amélie Goulet-Boucher, promotions officer with Yoho and Kootenay national parks, said wildlife specialists were investigating the wolf/van incident, and told us,"Visitor and wildlife safety are a top priority for Parks Canada and we will continue to do our utmost to ensure the safety of both."

A few months ago it was a grizzly bear tailing a cyclist; now, in the same general area, it’s a wolf dogging a van.

A family of motorists driving near Radium Hot Springs in British Columbia captured this startling footage last month and recently posted it to YouTube. They noticed a grey wolf on the roadside, which, as the van passed, hastened its lope in an apparent attempt to keep apace with the vehicle.

 “He was running so fast and he had his eyes only on us because there were other cars [travelling in] the opposite direction,” the person who captured the footage wrote on YouTube.

The video shows the wolf galloping at full speed along the highway shoulder, trotting on the opposite side of the road, and crossing the traffic lanes in its “pursuit” of the van.

The YouTube poster reported that the wolf chased the vehicle for "a good couple of kilometres” before the family, facing a “time crunch,” had to pick up speed and carry on.

This is highly unusual behaviour, but it’s not the first time a wolf in this vicinity has pulled such a stunt. In June 2013, a motorcyclist cruising Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park found himself accompanied by a running, then trotting wolf that came within a few metres of him as he snapped pictures. The previous month, motorists had also seen a wolf — quite possibly the same animal — “kind of loping along, minding his own business” along the same highway east of Radium Hot Springs.

The biker’s encounter led Parks Canada officials to suspect the wolf had become habituated to humans, possibly via handouts. That may also explain the more recent wolf/van encounter. Wolves readily patrol and hunt along backroads, but a major highway is a different matter. And while certain domestic dogs have a thing for chasing cars, it’s not at all standard practice for their wild cousins, certainly raising the possibility this wolf has been rewarded for approaching vehicles in the past.

(We’ve reached out to some authorities for more insight into possible explanations for this wolf’s behaviour and will update as we can. Meanwhile, some commenters on the video have also suggested the canid in question could be a wolf-dog hybrid.)

A wolf that's overly friendly with people, let alone fast-moving cars, can spell trouble. Viewing the B.C. video, though, we can also briefly set that issue aside and appreciate for a moment the grey wolf’s remarkable athleticism.

Wolves are among the world’s great wayfarers, famous for their almost relentless endurance. Like other large wild dogs, they’re quintessential cursorial, or pursuit, hunters, hence the sturdy Russian proverb: “The wolf is kept fed by his feet.” Putting a van or motorcycle through its paces isn’t normal, but chasing deer, moose, elk, caribou, mountain sheep, and bison over some distance is — and so is questing about as many as 80 kilometres (50 miles) or more a day in search of prey.

With their narrow chests and long, lean legs, wolves can trot at about eight kilometres per hour (five miles per hour) almost tirelessly; in short high-speed bursts, they reach close to 64 kilometres per hour (40 mph), but can maintain slower lopes for an extended distance.

A wolf’s predatory strategy may be somewhat less explosive than the standard ambush-and-wrestle tactic most cats rely on, but it’s an effective one. By coursing an ungulate herd, wolves can assess whether any animals among it are less than physically fit, then zero in on such straggling or impaired quarry — or call off the hunt if none should “recommend” itself.

The most formidable North American prey animals for wolves are moose and bison, which are significantly more vulnerable to a pack if they flee as opposed to standing their ground. L. David Mech’s classic study of wolves on Michigan’s Isle Royale, a large wilderness island in Lake Superior, showed a large pack had to “test” about a dozen moose for every one killed: an indication of the giant deer’s belligerence but also the amount of ground wolves may have to cover to successfully land a meal.

(Speaking of, just this week we spotlighted this wolf attack on a moose in Ontario randomly caught on drone video — check it out for a striking top-down view of the action.)


Top header image: Tambako the Jaguar, Flickr