It’s easy to forget when you’re in a national park, that you truly are among wild animals.
In a park so beautiful that Canadians put it on their $20 bill, a family of four was enjoying a camping trip in Banff National Park.
None of them could have guessed they would be coming face-to-face with a hungry wolf in the middle of the night. But that’s what happened.
It was about half past midnight when Russ Fee woke up to the sound of frantic shouts coming from a campsite next to his in Canada’s Banff National Park. From within his tent, he listened, quickly discerning that the voices belonged to a man and a woman. They were screaming for help.
“I threw my shoes on. My wife tossed me a lantern,” Fee said in an interview Tuesday with the radio show “Calgary Eyeopener.” “I popped out of the tent and just started running toward their tent sort of yelling, ‘I’m here! I’m here! What’s wrong?'”
He was expecting to find a family whose kid had wandered off in the night. He wasn’t expecting to find a shredded tent with the back half of a wolf sticking out of it.
“We are forever grateful to Russ who came to our aid,” Elisa Rispoli, whose husband, Matt, was injured in the attack, wrote on Facebook. Describing Fee as a “guardian angel,” Elisa added that the Canadian man probably saved her husband’s life.
“It could have been so so much worse, and we are just feeling so thankful that we are all still sitting here as a complete family,” she wrote.
The Rispolis were asleep in their tent at the park’s Rampart Creek Campground when they were jolted awake after midnight by the wolf.
“It was like something out of a horror movie,” Elisa wrote in the Facebook post.
Matt instantly threw himself in front of his wife and the children, fighting the predator as it ripped apart the tent. While her husband was trying to keep the wolf at bay, Elisa wrote that she lay on top of her two boys to shield them. Together, the couple cried out for help.
Luckily, Fee heard them.
The wolf was in the process of dragging Matt out of the tent when help arrived.
“I just kind of kept running at it and I just kicked it . . . in the back hip area like I was kicking in a door,” he said on the radio show. “I booted it as hard as I could.”
The kick may not have done much physical damage, but Fee said it was enough to startle the wolf into letting Matt go. Then, the animal emerged from the tent and Fee said he “immediately regretted kicking it.”
“I felt like I had kind of punched someone that was way out of my weight class,” he said.
But before Fee had to think of another way to take on the wolf solo, he said Matt, whose “whole half side was just covered in blood,” came flying out of the tent. The two men began screaming at the wolf and hurling rocks about “the size of a head of cabbage” at the animal to drive it back, Fee said. Soon, the wolf was far enough away that the group was able to flee to Fee’s campsite, where they hid in his minivan.
It’s easy to forget the wild is a dangerous place to play. Sometimes those encounters can be comically silly:
Other times, they can be harrowing — or worse.