A four-year-old girl is alone out in the Siberian wilderness of Russia’s Tuva republic in pre-dawn darkness. It is winter and temperatures hover around -27 degrees F as she makes her way along a river bank. She is miles from any help. Worst of all, nobody even knows little Saglana Salchak is out here.

There are wolves in the forests of Tuva, a lot of them. Overpopulation has made competition for food fierce and the Siberian packs are hardened to their conditions, more aggressively rapacious than you’d find elsewhere in the world. Fear of humans is simply no match for hunger.
Winter only makes the situation more desperate, as winters always seem to do. From their dens in the steppes, where food takes flight when the snow flies, the lupine hordes descend upon the farmers like their barbarian Mongol neighbors 700 years earlier to pillage their herds of cattle and sheep.

A typical four-year-old weighs 40 pounds and is 40 inches tall. Russian wolves max out around 160 pounds and 33 inches at the shoulder. They can look a four-year-old eye to eye. If you have six of them on the attack, that’s almost a half-ton of slashing-teeth predator from all directions at once.

Winter has come. The wolves are here. Little Saglana knows this as she trudges through the snow. They have already eaten from her grandparents livestock. If they got her now, nobody would know. She has in her pocket a box of matches for light, but knows wolves are afraid of fire, should they come for her. She’s four-years-old.

A husband and wife are up and about, getting ready for their day on their isolated farm in the Russian wilderness. The dark of night has grudgingly given way to dawn. The woman glances out the window to see what kind of weather they’ll have to endure. There’s movement in the trees. It’s not a wolf which everybody is on the lookout for, but … she looks harder … a little girl.

Saglana, no red hood, just a red hat

She runs out and grabs Saglana before she disappears further into the woods. They get her medical help but the little girl has only caught a cold and “really wanted to eat” Saglana told them. She also told them she was not afraid of her trip through the forest alone adding, “I just walked, walked and got there.”

“Tuva has simply filled up with wolves,” Semyon Rubtsov, head of the regional search and rescue group, commented on Saglana’s ordeal. “They eat the livestock – the herders moan about them. She could have easily stumbled on a pack in the darkness.”

Saglana was taken back to her own house where she lived with her grandmother and grandfather who is blind. It was discovered that her grandmother had died of a heart attack in the night. When little Saglana awoke in the early morning hours, her grandmother wouldn’t wake up. She went out into the wintry night armed with a box of matches, against hungry wolves, for help, to their nearest neighbor, five miles away.