Russ Fee was asleep inside his tent last summer when a series of screams jolted him awake. Throwing on his shoes and grabbing a lantern his wife had handed him, he ran out to investigate, expecting to find two scared parents whose kids had wandered off. Fee and his wife were traveling through Canada’s Banff National Park to enjoy its stunning beauty and awesome wildlife. It was the latter he now encountered. Although it was dark, Fee could discern a neighboring tent in shambles. Backing out was a wolf, dragging something in his teeth. That thing was a man.
Moments earlier, Elisa and Matt Rispoli, from New Jersey, were asleep with their two young children when the wolf tore into their tent. “It was like something out of a horror movie,” Elisa posted on Facebook. For three minutes, “Matt threw his body in front of me and the boys and fought the wolf.” At one point, Matt got the upper hand, pinning the wolf to the ground. But the wolf clamped its jaw onto Matt’s arm, set its powerful legs, and began tugging Matt outside “while I was pulling on his legs trying to get him back,” Elisa wrote.
It was then that Russ Fee entered the picture. He ran at the beast, kicking it in the hip “like I was kicking in a door,” he told ABC New York. The wolf dropped Matt and emerged from the tent. Wolves are large, Fee told the radio show Calgary Eyeopener. “I felt like I had punched someone that was way out of my weight class.”
Before the wolf could turn its ire on Fee, Matt, his arms bloodied, flew out of the tent to resume the battle. The men pelted the wolf with rocks, forcing it back, then the Fees and the Rispolis fled to the shelter of the Fees’ minivan. An ambulance was called, and Matt was taken to a local hospital suffering puncture wounds and lacerations. He has fully recovered. Park officials closed down the campground until they tracked down the wolf and euthanized it. Canada is home to 60,000 wolves, according to the International Wolf Center. Still, they wrote, on their web site, attacks are so rare that “a person in wolf country has a greater chance of being killed by a dog, lightning, a bee sting, or a car collision with a deer than being injured by a wolf.”
As for Fee, whom Elisa dubbed their guardian angel, he does admit to a fleeting, if less-than-heroic, thought during the heat of battle. The moment the wolf locked eyes with him, Fee says, “I immediately regretted kicking it.”