North

After terrifying wolf encounter, N.W.T. woman faces media storm and naysayers

After telling her tale about being stalked by a wolf, Joanne Barnaby has been fielding movie offers and questions about whether a wolf would actually prey on a human.

Joanne Barnaby is fielding movie offers and skepticism about whether a wolf really stalked her for 12 hours

'I'm still feeling like it's still unreal or surreal,' says Joanne Barnaby, one week after her ordeal with a wolf in the N.W.T. wilderness. (Submitted by Joanne Barnaby)

A woman's account of how she was stalked by a wolf has earned her celebrity status, but also questions from those who doubt the plausibility of her tale.

Last Friday, Joanne Barnaby says, she was hunted by a wolf in the N.W.T. wilderness for 12 hours. She was morel mushroom picking near Fort Smith with her dog Joey, when the hungry-looking wolf started to stalk them. For the entire night, the animal pushed the pair farther and farther away from the highway and the search parties scouring the bush for them.

Barnaby's story, and the dangerous plan she hatched to get a mother bear to attack the wolf, has drawn attention all over the world.

Joanne Barnaby, with her pail of mushrooms, and Const. Dwayne Pardy pose after she climbed onto the highway near Fort Smith, N.W.T. (Fort Smith RCMP)

"My cuts and bruises are healing OK," she said from her home in Hay River on Friday, one week after her ordeal. "Mentally it's — I'm still feeling like it's still unreal or surreal."

Barnaby sounds weary, and confirms she's still feeling tired, but mostly overwhelmed. Media from across Canada, the U.S. and Europe have been hounding her to tell her tale. She's even gotten offers for movie deals.

"It's just really mind-boggling that the movie industry would be interested in my life," she chuckles.

"I haven't talked to any of them. I haven't got a clue how to deal with that."

But … do wolves really prey on humans?

Many commenters on CBCNews.ca questioned the plausibility of Barnaby's story — some suggested she was picking mushrooms of the magic kind, while others asserted that a wolf would never prey on a human.

Joey, Barnaby's 'loyal' dog, was with her when she was stalked by the wolf. (Submitted by Joanne Barnaby)
A spokesman for Parks Canada confirms that Wood Buffalo National Park, the area where the incident happened, has previously documented "zero" incidents of wolf attacks or encounters like the one Barnaby describes.

But Roger Catling, who has been hunting wolves and bears in the territory for more than 40 years, told CBC that what happened to Barnaby is believable.

"I have had personal run-ins with both single wolves and a pack where they showed aggression towards humans," he says.

"This could have been an old, starving wolf who had lost its fear of humans."

Barnaby is no stranger to the bush, and she admits her wolf encounter was out of the ordinary.

"It most definitely was unusual. It's crazy," she says. "They usually don't go after people. So he may have just been after my dog. I don't know."

As for the naysayers, she says she can't help the way people see things.

"I have no control over that."

Moving on

A week after her ordeal, Barnaby is still feeling the physical effects. She's still sore from a fall, but says she can "finally wear shoes" now that the swelling and blisters on her feet have subsided. And the "thousands" of mosquito bites she suffered are, mercifully, not too itchy.

Barnaby says it's been 'overwhelming' dealing with the media attention she's received since her wolf encounter. (Submitted by Joanne Barnaby)

The attention is taking some getting used to, though.

"I haven't been going into town much, it's hard to handle all the questions and the curiosity," she says.

"Everybody's blown away by the experience, of course."

Barnaby says she's getting tons of love and support, and she feels much gratitude to the many people who searched for her — from fellow mushroom pickers to the RCMP.

And whatever happened to those expensive morels she picked? 

"I had about a quarter of a pail of mushrooms that I brought home, and ate," she laughs.

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