During a recent commute to work, Rhonda Miller came across some light traffic: two wolves running "flat out" along Highway 3 in Canada's Northwest Territories.
When Miller first saw one of her fellow commuters from a distance, she thought it was a person walking down the highway, she tells CBC News.
"I thought that was strange because you don't normally see people walking on the road that far out," she says. "I slowed down a bit and I got closer. I thought it was a bear, and I thought, 'it can't be a bear,' because it was the wrong time of year."
Then she noticed the second animal, and realized she was following two black wolves, a color variant of the gray wolf. Miller has seen a wide range of wildlife on this highway, she tells the CBC, but not wolves. And while wolves' natural wariness tends to cut short any encounters with humans, Miller apparently maintained enough distance and drove slowly enough to avoid that outcome.
Both wolves kept running along the road even after Miller caught up with them, letting her film the behavior with her phone as she passed. It's generally unwise to use a phone while driving, but the road was otherwise empty and Miller didn't divert her attention for very long. The purpose of this sprint is unclear, but the wolves barely reacted to Miller's brief presence aside from glancing at her car. And regardless of why they were running, the scene made a big impression on Miller.
"My body immediately became afraid," she says. "I was so struck by the size of their heads and their jaws." That's not a surprising first reaction to seeing wolves, given the way the animals are often portrayed as monsters in popular media, but of course Miller was in no real danger. Not only was she inside a moving vehicle, but healthy wolves almost never attack humans, and fatal wolf attacks are extremely rare in North America. As Sarah Keartes reports in EarthTouch News, research has shown wolves typically flee any humans who come within 200 meters (656 feet).
Miller, who was driving to her job at a school in Behchokǫ̀, says she filmed this because she was worried no one would believe the story.
"When I got to school, I shared it with the teachers and kids," Miller says. "Everybody was just amazed. I think just the power of them and the beauty of them, seeing them running like that, flat out, is pretty inspiring."