Love Story Of One Wild Wolf and A Small Town In Alaska

Where did the expression ‘Mans Best Friend’ come from and who were dogs before beloved household pets? Wolves have been around for 750,000 years and yet are constantly depicted in a negative light. In a story some call a fairytale, we learn about the six-year-long relationship between a small town and a wild wolf. This surprising story saw the wild living peacefully within the local community. So is there such a thing as a big bad wolf or is it time to stop villainizing these majestic creatures?

What Big Teeth You Have!

Image Credit: Getty Images/Ulrich Roesch/For Illustrative Purposes

Image Credit: Getty Images/Ulrich Roesch/For Illustrative Purposes

In the story 'Little Red Riding Hood', a little girl gets eaten by an evil wolf pretending to be her grandmother. There are many different versions of the story but they all have the wolf as the evil character. Other children's stories teach us a young age to be scared of wolves, but could this wolf change the mind of a small town?

What Are Wolves?

Image Credits: Getty Images/DesignPics

Image Credits: Getty Images/DesignPics

Wolves are intimidating and can weigh up to 80kgs and have an average life of 6-8 years. They run in packs consisting of 5-8 wolves and are very territorial. There are over thirty different kinds of wolves in North America, but this one wolf was one of a kind.

Where Is Alaska?

Image Credits: Getty Images/Ingo Dorenberg

Image Credits: Getty Images/Ingo Dorenberg

Our story takes place in the beautiful state of Alaska. It has diverse landscapes and several different species of wildlife. It is famously recognized for fjords, glaciers, and watching the Northern Lights. One small remote town wasn't prepared for it's newest resident.

Who is Nick Jans?

Image Credits: Getty Images/Barcroft Media via Getty Images/Barcroft Media via Getty Images/Mark Hawkins/For Illustrative Purposes

Image Credits: Getty Images/Barcroft Media via Getty Images/Barcroft Media via Getty Images/Mark Hawkins/For Illustrative Purposes

Alaskan wildlife photographer Nick Jans was taking his dog for a walk one night when an unexpected visitor crossed their path. They lived in the remote town of Juneau and walked the same route daily. Nick considers himself comfortable with all animals but he was shocked by this encounter.

Alaskan Wildlife

Image Credits: Getty Images/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images/For Illustrative Purposes

Image Credits: Getty Images/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images/For Illustrative Purposes

The wildlife Nick had photographed before includes Killer Whales, Mountain Goats, Moose, Grizzlies, Coyotes, Black, and Polar Bears. Nick had experience waiting for the perfect shot and was comfortable in dangerous settings. The biggest shock was having an encounter in his backyard.

Friend or Foe

Image Credits: National Geographic/Nick Jans

Image Credits: National Geographic/Nick Jans

Nick was walking his yellow labrador named Dakotah when the mysterious wolf appeared in front of them. Instantly Nick panicked that Dakotah would be attacked and tried to hold onto her collar. Slipping through his grasp, Dakotah and the wolf began sniffing each other and saying hello.

New Member Of The Family

Image Credits: Getty Images/Marcia Straub/For Illustrative Purposes

Image Credits: Getty Images/Marcia Straub/For Illustrative Purposes

After witnessing how gentle and kind the wolf could be, he became part of their daily routine. He would wait outside for Nick & Dakotah's daily walks; but also disappear for weeks at a time. Other residents questioned if Nick thought the wolf was becoming domesticated, but Nick knew he only came when he felt like seeing them. 

Romeo, Romeo, Wherefore Art Thou Romeo

Image Credits: Getty Images/Andy Skillen Photography/For Illustrative Purposes

Image Credits: Getty Images/Andy Skillen Photography/For Illustrative Purposes

With his regular visits to see Dakotah, giving this wild animal a nickname was easy. Nick's family would see the wolf waiting outside for Dakotah, and joke that her ‘Romeo’ had arrived. Romeo remained very relaxed and never showed signs of aggression to Nick’s family, but was he blinded by love or a gentle giant?

Becoming a Social Butterfly

Image Credits: National Geographic/Jos Bakker

Image Credits: National Geographic/Jos Bakker

He became well known with the other dogs in the community, meeting them on the frozen lake to play together. Romeo became a local celebrity and was in the paper several times as a tourist attraction. Nick remembers Romeo especially liked his neighbor and shocked everyone when he wanted to play this game

We All Love Fetch

Image Credits: Getty Images/Petr Stanislav Gaňa/For Illustrative Purposes

Image Credits: Getty Images/Petr Stanislav Gaňa/For Illustrative Purposes

To everyone's surprise regardless if you’re a wolf or a dog, both like to play fetch. Nick spoke with National Geographic about Romeo's brilliant mind explaining, "Any highly intelligent animal, from killer whales to wolverines, will engage in play when they have leisure and aren’t engaged in survival." Romeo would hide styrofoam floats around the lake and bring it to people he trusted the most, but did the entire community believe in his gentle nature?

Community Connections

Image Credits: Getty Images/Ryerson Clark/For Illustrative Purposes

Image Credits: Getty Images/Ryerson Clark/For Illustrative Purposes

The Indigenous people of Alaska are called Inuit. Nick’s Inuit friends told him they would not even say the word “wolf” out loud for their cultural belief that animals could hear you talk about them. They believed specifically that wolves were superior beings with magical powers. Did everyone think wolves were magical or were the town divided?

Two Different Opinions

Image Credit: Getty Images/Barbara Eddowes/Moment Open Collection/For Illustrative Purposes

Image Credit: Getty Images/Barbara Eddowes/Moment Open Collection/For Illustrative Purposes

At first, the community was divided. Was it safe to have their kids around a wild animal? What should they do with him? Romeo won their hearts with his gentle nature, but what did the future hold for this curious creature?

How Much Time Do We Have?

Image Credits: Getty Images/Andy Skillen Photography/For Illustrative Purposes

Image Credits: Getty Images/Andy Skillen Photography/For Illustrative Purposes

The community felt lucky to have Romeo for six years. Hunting is legal in Alaska and carefully managed by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. When Romeo disappeared for weeks at a time, residents wondered if their fears had come true. The question on everyone's mind was Can he survive on love alone or would he meet a tragic ending? 

A Pawprint On Our Hearts

Image Credits: Getty Images/Dagny Willis/For Illustrative Purposes

Image Credits: Getty Images/Dagny Willis/For Illustrative Purposes

Romeo was killed by hunters in 2009 and the town of Juneau felt the loss of one of their residents. They came together and had a memorial service and created a plaque in Romeo's honor. Nick Jans says meeting Romeo was one of the best experiences and privileges of his life.

Nick has gone on and written a book about the experience called 'A Wolf Called Romeo'. He details the six-year relationship with the gentle giant and wishes more people could have witnessed his friendly, playful nature. What do you think about Romeo's tragic ending? Would you have felt comfortable being so close to a wild wolf? Share this story with your friends and find out what they think!