We've seen wolf packs in Alberta, Canada pull off some impressive hunts in the past, but sometimes, predatory success can be elusive – especially when a wolf is hunting solo ... and pursuing its quarry in the water.

Amateur photographer David Smith was enjoying a canoeing trip in Alberta's Lakeland Provincial Park and Recreation Area when he found himself in the perfect lakeside position to photograph a wolf's ambitious (if somewhat ill-considered) plan to outswim a white-tailed deer. 

Smith and a group of friends began their morning in a remote spot at Kinnaird Lake, one of the largest in the park, to the sounds of howls in the distance, so they were aware that wolves were nearby. 

"After hearing a wolf pack howling in the morning, there was a big splash in the lake 50 feet in front of us," Smith wrote on Facebook. "What happened I don't think many people will have the luck of seeing, let alone documenting." 

Moments after the stag burst into the water from the tall grass lining the banks, Smith, who photographs with ILEP Photography, grabbed his camera to capture the unfolding chase scene.

The resulting series of images has generated a lot of interest online, and although the snapshots don't show the final outcome, Smith told curious commenters on Facebook that the deer did get away in the end.

"The stag jumped out of the bush and the wolf jumped right in after it and tried to swim and bite it," he later recounted to CBC News. "This probably went on for a minute and then the wolf turned around. He probably realised it wasn't going to have too much of an opportunity to kill this animal in the middle of the lake."

Wildlife biologists who weighed in on the encounter agreed, telling Smith that the lone wolf may have been a young male, and therefore an inexperienced hunter. "Potentially he just realised swimming and attacking the buck was too much to manage," Smith added on Facebook.

With the wolf retired from the race, the group watched the swimming stag reach safety, apparently unharmed in the ordeal. 

This particular aquatic hunt may have been doomed to fail from the start, but wolves in some parts of North America regularly look to the water for their sustenance. 

The wolf population in Alaska's Katmai National Park, for example, has a unique relationship with the sea. Each summer, Katmai's waters fill with salmon returning from the ocean to spawn, and for the local canids, the fish are an easy food source that's just a dive away. And it seems even sea otters are occasionally on the menu in these parts:



Top header image: Yellowstone National Park/Flickr