By Ken Marsh
“When sorrows come, they come not single spies. But in battalions!”
– William Shakespeare, “Hamlet”
The wolves didn’t hesitate. Four of them, three grays and a smokey-black converged on the moose. Two of the grays lunged for the throat, another snapped at an ear – and for a moment hung from it, tugging – while the black wolf shot in to seize a front leg below the knee. Frantic, the moose shook them off, even as two more wolves appeared on the bank from behind.
Ears flattened, hackles raised, the moose reared, flailing with its front hooves. The visceral thud of bone striking flesh was followed by a yelp as the black wolf somersaulted across the frozen creek. From the bank a large, nearly snow-white wolf leaped onto the moose’s back, straddling it and grabbing the shoulder hump with jaws powerful enough to crush heavy femurs. The moose spun wild-eyed and the second wolf from the bank, a tawny gray, sailed in and clamped onto its prey’s windpipe above the dewlap.
Now the first three grays rushed the moose, tearing at its flanks, sinking their canines into its haunches. By the time the black wolf was up, wheezing with freshly broken ribs, the attack was over. The sun was sinking as the pack began stripping hide and snarling over hierarchical placement at the kill.
Already ravens had arrived. The hills to the east and the muskegs, forests, and frozen rivers and lakes in between beamed in rich pink alpenglow, even as the first faint stars appeared.