The sun was falling beneath the mountains that enclosed the valley. Huge pine forests glazed in snow carpeted the hills, and the wind blew savagely amongst them.

On the west side of the valley, amidst the hundreds of trees, you could make out the blurred, slim figure of a wolf. It was running, with a sense of great urgency. Every now and then with precious time it paused, raised its nose to the air and after a quick enquiry of the surroundings continued its way. The wolf's pace was fast and light-footed. But there was no way to disguise her unusual swagger, as she shifted the weight of her burdensome belly between sides. Inside her unborn cubs were unaware of the danger their mother was in, and that she must escape from her pursuer or they too would die.

It grew dark, and the wolf tired. She was clever, though, and knew her pursuer had poor sight in the dark. Once she had found a sheltered, dry place she settled down to rest. But her mind was as nervous, wary and worried as ever. Her pursuer was a human, and it had begun to chase her that morning.

The night before she had lost the tracks and scents of migrating deer to the weather. Then she had chanced upon a field of sheep close to the village that lay in the valley bottom. Overcome by hunger and lust she leaped over the fence and killed them all. Knowing that there was little time before the cut-off bleating of sheep in distress attracted the humans' attention, she ate quickly. The wolf had not finished eating a first bloody carcass when she heard raised voices and, more chillingly, the angry barks of dogs.

Carrying a last morsel of meat in her slavering mouth, she fled the field. But she left fur on the barbed wire as she cleared the fence, and so her scent was left strong to the angry animals behind.

So that night, she fell into a pleasant sleep with a full stomach to feed her and her unborn cubs. But next morning the frenzied howling of dogs woke her and she was forced to run as fast as her condition allowed her.

Now, as she lay in a rock cleft, she contemplated what path she would take the next day to put as much distance between her and the vengeful human.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a disturbance in her womb. A cub kicked, and she could not help but feel a mother's pride in the life that stirred freely inside her.

The moon had reached its pinnacle in the sky when the wolf fell asleep. For the moment, at least, her worried mind could be relieved in sleep. But the next morning would bring more anxiety and fear, as she raced against the human to save her life. For she knew what humans always seemed to carry. That long, metal object from which exited death. As a young wolf, she had seen her mother blasted away by one outburst from this object which to her oozed cold fear, and cruel malice. Guns were the symbol of death to every animal once before hunted. They could be sensed a mile away, for the scent of death could never be missed.

Only the next day could tell the wolf her fortunes. Was her life was to end the way it had for many, many wolves already?

"We're going tonail this one, Rick. No wolf kills my sheep and gets away with it." The man gestured with his hands to hold an imaginary shotgun and fire with it. He and a boy of about fifteen sat at a campfire. They warmed their cold hands against the pathetically small flames. Behind them was a small, pitched up tent. Two dogs, the man's best trackers, rested beside these. Their next meal would come in the morning when they had picked up the wolf's scent again. This hunt had been prepared.

"But Dad, is it right? I mean, you said yourself that it looked pregnant. I've heard about wolves that couldn't stop themselves killing more than they need."

His father gave him a disapproving look.

"Rick, a boy's only a man after he's killed something. There's my old man who got a huge moose when he was fifteen, just like you. And I got myself a nice pile of deer. Now it's your turn to prove yourself, sonny."

"But why do we have to kill animals to be men? I don't see it."

Rick's mind was heavy with reluctance. His father had forced him to come on the hunt for revenge, though he sympathized with the pregnant wolf. The sheep were a large loss, but their local council was a farmer-friendly one that would compensate people if a wild animal happened to destroy their livestock.

"Well, you're not going worm out of this, seeing as you'll be the one to shoot it."

Rick's father ignored the look of horror on his son's face. He continued.

"Wolves, they're smart. But we're smarter. So here's what we're gonna do. I know for a fact that a couple of miles east there's a big gorge. The wolf's going that way. If we go fast enough then we can trap it and that'll be its end."

"I don't want to kill it Dad. I won't." Rick said firmly.

His father narrowed his eyes. "Now you look here, boy, what you're going do is what hundreds of other kids your age want. Are you going be that ungrateful?"

He grunted, reaching for his prized shotgun. Carefully he placed it on his lap. It had a double barrel, and would need reloading after two shots. Shotguns were one of the worst guns to be hit by. It fired shells full of round pellets that impaled the victim deeply. The actual thrust of the bullet could throw them back.

Rick's father ran his hands down the cold metal barrels and caressed it almost. An unnerving grin was planted on his face.

"That wolf isn't going see another day after tomorrow."