Russ Fee was sleeping in his tent with his family at Canada’s Banff National Park when screams from a man and a woman woke him up—they were crying for help.
“I threw my shoes on. My wife tossed me a lantern,” Fee said in an interview Aug. 13 with radio show “Calgary Eyeopener,” after struggling with the zipper, the father of two finally got out of the tent.
“I popped out of the tent and just started running toward their tent sort of yelling, ‘I’m here! I’m here! What’s wrong?”
He told the radio station he expecting to see two parents scared that their child had wandered off into the woods, but what was really happening was “like something out of a horror movie.”
— CBC British Columbia (@cbcnewsbc) August 14, 2019
Fee said that he saw a tent that had “mostly collapsed” and a large wolf’s rear end sticking out of it. The animal was pulling on something inside, “just like he’s pulling on a toy.” That’s when Fee realized it had a man’s arm in its mouth, and was trying to rip it off.
“It was just so much larger than any dog I’ve ever seen,” Fee told the radio show on Tuesday.
“I had a good run going at the time … and it was just so quick and the screams were so intense, that I knew it was obviously a terrible situation, so I just kind of kept running at it and I just kicked it sort of in the back hip area,” said Fee. “I felt like I had kind of punched someone that was way out of my weight class,” he added.
He said he didn’t think the kick did much damage to the wolf because of its sheer size, but it startled the animal enough to let go of Matt Rispoli.
“I immediately regretted kicking it, but as soon as it popped out of the tent, Matt came flying out. His whole half side was just covered in blood, but he was pretty amped up too, so we both just started screaming at it,” Fee said.
The men began throwing rocks at the wolf, successfully keeping it backed up, before eventually fleeing with Matt Rispoli’s wife and two children to the Fee’s campsite, where they took refuge in the Fee’s vehicle.
Matt’s wife Elisa Rispoli described the horror inside the tent in a Facebook post.
“It was like something out of a horror movie. Matt literally threw his body in front of me and the boys, and fought the Wolf as it ripped apart our tent and his arms and hands,” she wrote in the Friday, Aug. 9 post.
“We were screaming for help as he was fighting it and trying to save us, for what felt like an eternity (but I think was anywhere from 1-3 minutes). I laid my body on top of the kids and Matt pinned the Wolf to the ground and held open its jaw with his hands, and the Wolf started to drag Matt away, while I was pulling on his legs trying to get him back. I cannot and don’t think I’ll ever be able to properly describe the terror.”
“A guardian angel from the tent site next to us, who we later found out was named Russ, heard our screams and came over to our site and kicked the Wolf and it finally let go of Matt. They had to continue to throw huge rocks at the Wolf while we ran as fast as we could to Russ’ mini van to safety,” Elisa Rispoli added.
“It could have been so so much worse, and we are just feeling so thankful that we are all still sitting here as a complete family. Matt is our absolute hero (I mean, way more than he normally was) and we are forever grateful to Russ who came to our aid and likely saved Matt’s life,” she wrote.
Parks Canada staff found the wolf believed to have attacked the New Jersey family about half a mile away from the campsite and euthanized it, reported Calgary Herald.
DNA tests later verified that the wolf was the one that had attacked the family.
Parks Canada also said they believe they found a motive for the rare attack, saying, “Veterinary tests have confirmed that the wolf was in poor condition and likely nearing the end of its natural life span,” reported the Calgary Herald.