A Canadian woman named Joanne Barnaby usually takes a gun with her when she heads into the wilderness. But two weeks ago, heading out to collect morel mushrooms, she didn’t want the rifle on her back while bending to pick the tasty fungi and instead only brought her dog, Joey, according to this story from Arkansas Online. Leaving her gun behind was a decision that almost cost her life.
“It was a stupid mistake,” she said in the story. “I paid a big price.”
What happened next is a survival story unbelievable enough to end up in a movie script sometime soon.
Barnaby, no stranger to the wilderness and hunting, grew up in the Canadian Northwest. At about 11 a.m. on June 10 she, her friend Tammy Caudron, and Joey set out for morels. Barnaby had a basket, a can of beer, and not much else.
The two foragers set out in different directions, the story says, and after about five hours of mushroom hunting, Barnaby bent over to pick one and heard Joey growl behind her.
When she stood up, she saw Joey muzzle to muzzle with a skinny black wolf. And though it looked malnourished, it was still twice the size of her mutt, and it was between her and the highway, the story says.
“He looked old to me, but he was smart,” she said. “it took me a while to realize how smart he was, and that he was actually being very, very strategic in trying to separate me from my dog and wear me down. I don’t think he was strong enough to take us both on. And I think he knew that.”
Joey tried to scare the wolf off, but it wouldn’t budge. It only stood there, looking ready to pounce, Barnaby said.
Every time she tried to angle back toward the highway and her truck, the wolf cut her and Joey off, until she found herself being forced deeper into the woods.
“He was directing me. There was no question about it. He was pushing me farther and farther from the highway,” she says in the story. “He was stalking me. He was literally stalking me.”
While all this was going on, her hunting partner returned to the truck, honked and waited, as was their routine, but panicked when Barnaby didn’t return or answer, the story says. Caudron flagged down a passing truck and the men inside spread out in the woods, firing shotguns to alert Barnaby to their location.
Though Barnaby heard a few of the shots, she couldn’t go toward them. The sun went down and Barnaby and her dog were still being pursued into the woods by the hungry wolf. It was a hot day, and the woods was filled with clouds of mosquitoes. She made it through the night and just as the sky brightened, she heard a grunting sound that she recognized as the call of a mother bear.
Now, this is where it gets interesting.
“I actually sat down on a log and really concentrated,” she said in the story. “I heard the cub’s response. It was coming from another direction, away from the mother, so obviously the mother was calling her cub.”
All the while, the wolf was still watching them.
Barnaby took a chance. She walked toward the cub, hearing its calls getting louder.
Before she ever saw the bear, the forest exploded behind her.
“All of a sudden I could hear this crashing behind me and this yelping and growling and howling,” she said in the story. “I just got out of there as fast as I could—from all of them, the cub, the mama bear, and wolf.”
Barnaby and Joey fled for a half hour, leaving the bear and wolf to fight it out. For once they weren’t followed.
Joey led them to a small lake where Barnaby filled her empty beer can with muddy water. Strengthening some, she climbed a small hill and saw cars stopped on the highway less than an hour away. It was a search party looking for her.
Just when she thought she was out, she found her path to the highway blocked by a large field of deadfalls.
“I don’t know if you know that game Pick-Up Sticks. It was kind of like that but on a massive level,” she said in the story.
She tried to climb it, but soon took a bad fall and hit her back.
“I didn’t think I was going to make it,” she said. “I started talking to both my sons, one of whom died when he was a baby, and my other son, who is a young man now. I was talking to all kinds of people that I love, and I was crying the whole time.”
But she didn’t stop walking.
Eventually she found a stream in a marsh filled her can again, and kept going.
Barnaby stepped onto the highway 14 hours after she and Joey first encountered the wolf, and four hours after escaping it and the bears.
She came up behind some Royal Canadian Mounted Police cars that were pointed the other way and actually surprised the men looking for her.
Barnaby actually turned down a ride home, driving her own truck instead, though she regretted it later once the adrenalin wore off and she felt how exhausted she really was, the story says.
Later, she posted her story and a photo from when she arrived home on social media. Due to the remarkable events, many people called foul, saying her story was fabricated.
But Barnaby and Caudron insist it really happened.
“We should have planned it out a little better. A lot of things went wrong. But at the end of the day, she did a lot of things right. And that’s why she is here,” Caudron said, adding that she didn’t pay attention to the “few naysayers here and there.”
It might be a good idea for Barnaby to make a pistol part of her morel-hunting gear in the future. But she should definitely get that mutt of hers a steak.