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The big black wolf and his dog friends who surprised the world

Wild wolf Romeo befriends domestic dogs in Alaska
© Andrew George, Heather Babcock - Facebook

No-one had ever met such a docile wolf, and that is exactly how ‘Romeo’ changed the lives of the residents in Juneau, Alaska. 

By Justine Seraphin, 26 Apr 2019

Nick Jans, nature photographer in Alaska, is blessed with the variety of scenery and wildlife he can find in his own backyard. In 2003, he noticed a big black wolf wandering around his property. As he approached the animal to get a closer look, he was amazed at how calm the animal was.

While most wild wolves are skittish and wary, this one did not seem bothered by the man’s presence, and quite on the contrary, seemed to enjoy it.

The big good wolf

The wolf started to come to the property more often, and each time, let Nick approach it. One day, Nick’s Labrador slipped from his grasp, and ran towards the wolf. But amazingly, the big black beast greeted him in a playful, friendly manner. 

It seemed this wolf was lonelier than anything else, and just needed a friend. Once he realised what a good playmate Nick’s Labrador was, he started to come by more often, and soon claimed the surrounding area as his new home.

 As time passed, the people of Juneau grew accustomed to his presence, and despite the long-standing notion that ‘the only good wolf is a dead wolf’, this black beauty became a mascot in his own right. He was named Romeo, because of the way he was able to charm every dog he ever came across. People who visited the town would often go to ‘see the wolf’, even bringing their pet dogs along. 

Wild at heart

While Romeo was not nervous around people or dogs, he remained a completely wild wolf. He was never fed by the humans who came to see him, and sometimes disappeared for weeks on end before returning, proving that he was entirely capable of hunting for himself. Although he was playful and sometimes even stole his dog cousins’ toys, no-one was ever able to get close enough to pet him, not even Nick.

Romeo lived to a ripe old age for a wild wolf, dying at around 8 years old. In a way, his proximity to human territory may have protected him from exterior threats. After his passing, Romeo was commemorated with a plaque, and Nick, who first discovered the friendly wolf, even wrote a book about him. 

Romeo’s story is definitely unique, and deserves to be remembered. “The amazing thing was Romeo’s understanding,” Nick told National Geographic. “It wasn’t just our understanding and tolerance. It was the combination of his and ours and the dogs’. We were three species working out how to get along harmoniously. And we did.”
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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