In 2003, nature photographer Nick Jans of Juneau, Alaska was taking his daily walk with his labrador when he came across something on a frozen lake that made his heart stand still: an enormous, black wolf was staring him directly in the eyes. Nick had photographed many wild wolves from a safe distance but was immediately worried that his dog should not come into contact with it.
Thus, he was all the more panicked when the labrador took off and went straight up to the wild animal — but to his surprise, starting playing with him! Nick quickly snapped a beautiful photograph. After a short while, the wolf disappeared back into the woods, but he didn’t stay away. He kept on reemerging out of the trees, as if playing a game of peek-a-boo. This was something really special; at no point did the powerful predator show any aggressiveness or behave threateningly. It seemed to just want to pop over to say “hello.”
Nick occupied his free time documenting the lonely wolf’s behavior as he ventured again and again into human territory.
He decided to name the graceful animal “Romeo.” Neighbors were skeptical and feared that the wolf would some day attack a child or a house pet. But the more often they encountered him, the more convinced they were that Romeo had only the best intentions. As he wasn’t a member of a pack, it seemed the unusually sociable animal simply wanted some company.
Juneau residents began seeking out encounters with the wolf, often visiting with Romeo in his favorite spot, Mendenhall Glacier Park. Many brought their dogs along with them to get to know the town’s new “guest.” Not once did a conflict arise between the domesticated and wild canines; simply affectionate playing.
Romeo even began to pick up a few new tricks in his interaction with humans, retrieving sticks that eager dog-owners would toss his way.
For six years, the congenial wild wolf stayed close to town and continued his friendly interactions with people and their dogs. When he reached the end of his life, townspeople put up a commemoration plaque in his honor.
No-one will forget how the beautiful, clever and gentle wolf who appeared out of nowhere brightened up one town’s life.