vocation. In any event, Ootek decided to attach himself to me; and the very next day he appeared at the wolf observation tent bringing with him his sleeping robe, and obviously prepared for a long visit. My fears that he would prove to be an encumbrance and a nuisance were soon dispelled. Ootek had been taught a few words of English by Mike, and his perceptivity was so excellent that we were soon able to establish rudimentary communications. He showed no surprise when he understood that I was devoting my time to studying wolves. In fact, he conveyed to me the information that he too was keenly interested in wolves, partly because his personal totem, or helping spirit, was Amarok, the Wolf Being. Ootek turned out to be a tremendous help. He had none of the misconceptions about wolves which, taken en masse, comprise the body of accepted writ in our society. In fact he was so close to the beasts that he considered them his actual relations. Later, when I had learned some of his language and he had improved in his knowledge of mine, he told me that as a child of about five years he had been taken to a wolf den by his father, a shaman of repute, and had been left there for twenty-four hours, during which time he made friends with and played on terms of equality with the wolf pups, and was sniffed atbut otherwise unmolested by the adult wolves. It would have been unscientific for me to have accepted all the things he told me about wolves without auxiliary proof, but I found that when such proof was obtainable he was invariably right.
12 Spirit of the Wolf O OTEK’S ACCEPTANCE of me had an ameliorating effect upon Mike’s attitude. Although Mike continued to harbor a deep-rooted suspicion that I was not quite right in the head and might yet prove dangerous unless closely watched, he loosened up as much as his taciturn nature would permit and tried to be co-operative. This was a great boon to me, for I was able to enlist his aid as an interpreter between Ootek and myself. Ootek had a great deal to add to my knowledge of wolves’ food habits. Having confirmed what I had already discovered about the role mice played in their diet, he told me that wolves also ate great numbers of ground squirrels and at times even seemed to prefer them to caribou. These ground squirrels are abundant throughout most of the arctic, although Wolf House Bay lies just south of their range. They are close relatives of the common gopher of the western plains, but unlike the gopher they have a very poor sense of self-preservation. Consequently they fall easy prey to wolves and foxes. In summer, when they are well fed and fat, they may weigh as much as two pounds, so that a wolf can often kill enough of them to make a good meal with only a fraction of the energy expenditure involved in hunting caribou. I had assumed that fishes could hardly enter largely into the wolves’ diet, but Ootek assured me I was wrong. He told me he had several times watched wolves fishing for jackfish or Northern pike. At spawning time in the spring these big fish, which sometimes weigh as much as forty pounds, invade the intricate network of narrow channels in boggy marshes along the lake shores. When a wolf decides to go after them he jumps into one of the larger channels and wades upstream, splashing mightily as he goes, and driving the pike ahead of him into progressively narrower and shallower channels. Eventually the fish realizes its danger and turns to make a dash for open water; but the wolf stands in its way and one quick chop ofthose great jaws is enough to break the back of even the largest pike. Ootek told me he once watched a wolf catch seven large pike in less than an hour. Wolves also caught suckers when these sluggish fish were making their spawning runs up the tundra streams, he said; but the wolf’s technique in this case was to crouch on a rock in a shallow section of the stream and snatch up the suckers as they passed—a method rather similar to