The wind howls and the snow seems to come down at an angle.Its being whipped against the tall bare trees and covering my tracks within seconds of me making them. I move silently, slowly; eyes peering forward. I am aware of every movement in the snow covered forest surrounding me. Every scent is analyzed and every sound listened to intently.
My name is Gray Wind. I am the leader of a proud pack of Timber Wolves. This is the story of the last hunt for me before a new Alpha is chosen.
I crouch down, hunger pangs in my belly; as I look for food. My ears listening for any small sound that will alert me that an animal is nearbyWe will feast this night. I have led the pack for years and although I have taken pride in my role; my age is beginning to make me slower and I know the others have noticed.
My pack follows closely behind me. I am the alpha wolf, the leader that is counted on for finding the prey that we will chase down to keep us all alive through this dismal season. If I fail them today, we may all die soon.
This storm has lasted for days. We are getting desperate to fill our bellies. It was weeks ago that we brought down a deer. The eight of us made short order of the meat. Now, it’s my job to make sure we eat again.
As the Alpha, I am always expected to eat first. This day with my mate and the rest of the pack growing thinner ; their ribs showing through their gray fur, I will stand aside and allow them to go before me. I know what my decision will mean; but I am willing to make that sacrifice for my pack.
Suddenly I hear the crack of a branch being stepped on. I catch the scent and we are off and running through the deep snow. Deep into the forest we catch up to the male buck. I lunge for the throat while my pack grab the deer by the shanks and attempt to pull him to the ground.
The large buck will not give up easily. He lowers his antlers in defense and comes at me. All the while, it is kicking his back legs at the two wolves behind him. The deer is snorting and fighting for its life; but we are hungry; too hungry to give up now. The rest of the pack joins in now; biting the deer from every side.
The pack has tasted blood. It drives them insane as they bite and clamp their fangs into the flesh of the big buck. I go for the throat again.The deer’s antler is used as a weapon against me. I back off. I wait until it raises its head; in an instant I have his throat in my mouth. I rip and twist at it until I hear the crack of its neck and it stumbles; before falling to the ground. I can see the last bit of breath being expelled from it mouth; as the warmth of it meets the cold air.
The pack is anxious to begin feasting. They look to me first. I turn my back; telling them I will not be first to taste the deer this time. They rip into the deer and feed greedily. I watch from nearby.
After their bellies are bloated and full; I approach to eat what they have left. It isn’t much, but I am content to eat the meager amount of meat left on the carcass; knowing they will survive.
My own body has grown weaker. I know that soon it will be time for one of the males in the pack to challenge for the alpha position. It is the way of nature. I did the same when I won the role more than five years ago.
By relinquishing the order of the eating of the deer; I have signaled weakness to the males. There was wisdom in my act; but they do not know this. Only time and experience the new leader will gain will teach him that survival of the pack is the most important role he has.
The deer’s antler plunged into my neck during the take down and has done grave damage to me. My time is growing short. My mate, White Star, lies next to me licking at my wound. She knows. She howls loudly, shattering the night’s silence as she mourns my condition.
I survived the night, but as the sun rises over the forest; I hear the growling of the males. I know the challenge is beginning. My rein is over. My life as their leader has come to an end. The winner will be the strongest and the most fleet of foot. I am glad they will go one without me, with a worthy leader.
I see one last breath leave my mouth as the warmth of it meets the cold morning air. I close my eyes.
After the challenge for Alpha is over, the new leader gathers the others around the body of their past leader. He howls; and the rest join him in a tribute to the fallen one; and a welcome to the new Alpha, Swift Hunter.
Their howls echo through the forest. In the wild, life of the fittest is the rule that governs all creatures. This day the strongest will lead his pack for another kill. They will survive the winter and new pups will be born in the spring. This scene will replay again and again, completing the circle of life. That is the way of Nature.