John Hyde/agefotostock

Romeo

In December 2003, a young wolf appeared to the community of suburban Juneau, Alaska. 

He was an Alexander Archipelago wolf, which is one of the rarest subspecies of the gray wolf. Alexander Archipelago wolves face the continued threat of legal and illegal hunting and trapping, and the loss of habitat that comes with the logging of forests. The wolf was on his own, likely a surviving member of a pack who lost several members to human-caused mortality.

Wild wolves are typically shy and avoid humans, but this wolf was different. He enjoyed the company of people and especially their dogs, maybe because he was alone and missed his own family. The wolf was eager to socialize, coming back again and again to see his new friends.

Both the locals and visitors alike looked forward to the encounters. The big friendly wolf romped in the snow with the dogs, and they played together for long periods of time on the frozen Mendenhall Lake. After seeing the wolf playfully flirt with Dakotah, their female yellow Lab, resident Nick Jans and his family gave him a name. He was a wolf called Romeo.

In the spring, the frozen lake melted and Romeo parted ways with his human and dog friends. He would live on his own below Mendenhall Glacier until the lakes had frozen in the fall. Then, Romeo would return to live at the edge of the wilderness alongside the community.

For six consecutive years, the beloved wolf was a fixture of Juneau. Romeo formed unwavering bonds with locals like Harry Robinson and his furry companion, Brittain, exploring the wilderness for hours on end. And his journey was carefully documented by photographer John Hyde, who captured the magic of Romeo's remarkable life in stunning winter snapshots.

Sadly, some individuals fail to acknowledge the vital role that wolves play in our ecosystem, their fundamental right to coexist, and the joy they bring to those who appreciate them. Romeo would suffer the consequences.

In the fall of 2009, Romeo appeared as usual, excited to see his friends. On September 18, after hiking with Harry and Brittain, he disappeared without a trace. After an extensive investigation, it was discovered that Romeo had been illegally shot by poachers. Despite overwhelming evidence against them, the poachers were not held accountable, and justice was not served for Romeo's untimely death. While the killers received a slap on the wrist, the devastation they caused left a deep wound in the hearts of Juneau's community who had come to love him as family.

Romeo's gentle nature and trust in humankind will be forever remembered. We must strive for a world where beings like Romeo can roam freely alongside us, with laws in place to ensure they stay safe.

John Hyde/Alamy Stock

If you enjoyed this story, continue exploring the modern-day life of the American Gray Wolf.

The 06 Legacy is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting America's gray wolves by educating the public about the importance of wolf populations, raising awareness about the challenges wolves face, and electing officials who support wolf protection.

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Romeo Resources

Kids
Black Wolf of the Glacier: Alaska's Romeo
by

Deb

Vanasse

The story of Alaska's legendary wolf, Romeo is told through the eyes of a young girl and her dog. Beautifully illustrated. (ages 3-8) 2013

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Adults
Romeo: The Story of an Alaskan Wolf
by

John

Hyde

An intimate portrait of Romeo, the lone black wolf, who captured the hearts of an Alaskan community. The author uses photographs from his personal encounters with Romeo to tell the story. 2012

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Adults
Wolf Called Romeo
by

Nick

Jans

The incredible story of a black wolf who befriended man and dog alike in Juneau, Alaska. For six years, Romeo accompanied people on hikes and played with their dogs. 2014

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