Was An Evanston Couple Cornered By Wolves, Or Dogs?

An Evanston couple said they were terrified late Monday while out walking their dogs when they were cornered by three vicious canines that they suspect were wolves.

Mark Heinz

March 19, 20246 min read

Jacob and Bethany Balser said that they and their dog, Mavrick, were cornered late Monday by three vicious canines that may have been wolves.
Jacob and Bethany Balser said that they and their dog, Mavrick, were cornered late Monday by three vicious canines that may have been wolves. (Courtesy Bethany Balser)

An Evanston couple out walking their dog late Monday were hemmed in by three vicious canines they suspect could have been wolves.

Bethany Balser said that she and her husband, Jacob, were terrified during the encounter, which lasted a few minutes.

“I had this thought, ‘We’re being hunted. We’re prey,’” Bethany told Cowboy State Daily.

Nobody, including their dog Mavrick, was hurt, and the species of the animals that accosted them remained unverified as of Tuesday.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department got a report early of possible wolves in Evanston, Regina Dickson, the agency’s public information specialist for the Green River Region, told Cowboy State Daily.

But there was also a local report of three dogs running loose, she said.

Out Of The Darkness

Bethany said that she and Jacob were nearing their home on 17th Street in Evanston at about 8:20 p.m., and Jacob was holding Mavrick’s leash.

That’s when she noticed a pointy-earned canine emerging from the shadows around the corner of an apartment building. Then a second, and a third.

Once they spotted the couple and their dog, the animals spread out — with one in the center and the others on the flanks — and started advancing on them, Bethany said.

She was holding a small flashlight, which she shined in the animals’ faces.

“It’s a weird spot, with multiple streets coming together” adjacent to a park, Bethany said, describing the setting.

As the trio of animals approached, the Balsers and their dog were backed up against a snowbank, so running from them wasn’t an option.

And that would have been a bad idea anyway, because whether the animals were dogs or wolves, running would have triggered the chase-and-attack instincts of canines, Bethany said.

Snarls And Growls

The animals “took turns” rushing at the couple and their dog, she said.

There was no barking, just growls and snarls, Bethany added.

And luckily, Maverick stayed quite and calm, she said. He’s a 70-pound “double-doodle,” or Labradoodle/goldendoodle cross.

“He was completely silent. Completely silent, which I think was great,” Bethany said. “Because if he had gotten loud and started barking, growling or anything at all, those animals would have come straight at us.”

The Balsers, on the other hand, were anything but quiet.

“We kept waving our arms and shouting anytime one of them would approach, shouting: ‘Hey! Hey! Back!’” she said.

Bethany said the flashlight’s beam seemed to disorient the animals a bit.

She described them as looking somewhat like German shepards, “but thinner, leaner.”

They had dark, mixed-color coats and weren’t wearing collars.

They were smaller than Mavrick, maybe 50-60 pounds each, she added. So, if they were wolves, they were juveniles.

Aside from the flashlight’s beam, there wasn’t much light, “so it was really impossible to tell for sure what those animals were,” Bethany said.

The yelling and posturing worked for a while, but then one of the animals lunged for Jacob’s leg.

“He (Jacob) just threw is arms up, really big and shouted as loud as he could,” Bethany said.

Jacob wasn’t bitten, she said.

And then, as suddenly as the attack began, it ended, she said.

“Out of the blue, they just started to back away, staying spread out. They never took their eyes off of us. Once they got back to the corner of the building they had come from, they bunched back up and trotted away,” Bethany said.

“I give credit to God,” she added. “To be honest, they had the upper hand. They had us at their mercy.”

For the rest of the way home, she walked backward, shining the flashlight toward where the animals had been, while Jacob walked forward with a tight hold on Maverick’s leash.

The last time they saw the animals, the trio seemed to be headed toward open country on the fringes of town, Bethany said.

The star shows where a pack of vicious dogs or wolves harassed an Evanston family.
The star shows where a pack of vicious dogs or wolves harassed an Evanston family. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Wolf Report

Bethany posted a warning about “vicious dogs” on a social media community page.

When another local posted in the comments section that they’d seen suspected wolf tracks on their property, that again raised Bethany’s suspicions that the animals they’d encountered weren’t just stray dogs.

She said she called local animal control. After hearing Bethany’s description of the animals and their behavior, the animal control officer told her to call Game and Fish.

Game and Fish shared a brief report filed by Evanston Game Warden Heather Sterling.

"I received a phone call from Bethany Balser this morning, who was concerned that her husband and herself may have had a wolf encounter while walking their dog on Sage Street in Evanston last night,” according to Sterling’s report.

“She stated that they had three dogs come from 17th Street approach them and follow them a distance snarling and lunging at them. She said no one was injured, but they had been very scared and reported the incident to Evanston PD along with posting it on Facebook,” the report continues. “Bethany could not identify the dogs, but said they were smaller than her 70-pound poodle/Lab mix and had pointed ears. She was concerned they might have been wolves based on a report of someone seeing wolf tracks out in Almy.

“At this time, we cannot verify the species of the dogs in question, though Evanston Animal Control had a report of two pitbulls and a Saint Bernard.”

Wolves Like To Wander

Game and Fish Large Carnivore Specialist Dan Thompson declined to comment specifically on the Evanston report.

He told Cowboy State Daily that wolves can travel great distances and end up in unexpected places.

“Nearly anything is possible in the realm of potential wolf movements,” he said. “We've had wolves disperse all over North America from the Northern Rocky Mountain and Great Lakes wolf populations. They move far and wide swiftly when dispersing.”

Bethany said she and Jacob will keep taking their evening walks, but she plans to go to a local sporting goods store and buy a can of bear spray to take along.

Mark Heinz can be reached at mark@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter