'Like ... a horror movie': Camper saves New Jersey family of 4 from savage wolf attack in Canada
It was about half past midnight when Russ Fee woke up to the sound of frantic shouts coming from a campsite next to his in Canada's Banff National Park. From within his tent, he listened, quickly discerning that the voices belonged to a man and a woman. They were screaming for help.
"I threw my shoes on. My wife tossed me a lantern," Fee said in an interview Tuesday with the radio show "Calgary Eyeopener." "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?'"
Fee, who is from Calgary, told the program that he expected to find "two really scared parents" whose child had wandered off into the woods. Instead, the sight that greeted him was much more distressing.
The family's tent was in shambles, Fee said, and sticking out of its entrance was the rear end of a large wolf.
In what officials with Parks Canada are calling a "very rare incident," a wolf attacked a New Jersey couple and their two children who were visiting the national park in Banff, Alberta, early Friday - a harrowing encounter that may have ended differently if it weren't for Fee's quick thinking, Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.
"We are forever grateful to Russ who came to our aid," Elisa Rispoli, whose husband, Matt, was injured in the attack, wrote on Facebook. Describing Fee as a "guardian angel," Elisa added that the Canadian man probably saved her husband's life.
"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," she wrote.
The Rispolis were asleep in their tent at the park's Rampart Creek Campground when they were jolted awake after midnight by the wolf.
"It was like something out of a horror movie," Elisa wrote in the Facebook post.
Matt instantly threw himself in front of his wife and the children, fighting the predator as it ripped apart the tent. While her husband was trying to keep the wolf at bay, Elisa wrote that she lay on top of her two boys to shield them. Together, the couple cried out for help.
Luckily, Fee heard them.
When he arrived at the family's campsite, Fee told "Calgary Eyeopener" that he saw the wolf attempting to yank something free of the tent, like it was "pulling on a toy."
"It was big enough that I immediately figured out what it was, which is weird because I've never seen one outside of the zoo," he said. "It was just so much larger than any dog I've ever seen."
Inside the now mostly collapsed dwelling, an intense tug-of-war was unfolding. Elisa wrote that the animal had "started to drag Matt away" and she was holding on to his legs.
"I cannot and don't think I'll ever be able to properly describe the terror," she wrote.
Meanwhile, as Fee ran toward the tent, carrying only the lantern his wife gave him, he devised a hasty plan.
"I just kind of kept running at it and I just kicked it . . . in the back hip area like I was kicking in a door," he said on the radio show. "I booted it as hard as I could."
The kick may not have done much physical damage, but Fee said it was enough to startle the wolf into letting Matt go. Then, the animal emerged from the tent and Fee said he "immediately regretted kicking it."