wolves

I have been putting off this post for several reasons. One, because it means the end of the posts about Yellowstone and, thus, no more excuses to revisit on an almost daily basis. Two, because there is so much to say about wolves and I don’t think I could do the subject justice in the short amount of time I have to put into these posts. I will do my best, but don’t be surprised if you are wanting to know more about wolves when you finish reading. I will be adding some links for those of you who are intrigued enough about the subject.

The point of this tour was to see the wolves in their natural habitat during the winter months when it is (sometimes) easier to see them. We were told at the beginning of the trip that we were not guaranteed to see any wolves, but that we would see plenty of wildlife. If you have been following the past 10 posts, you will know that we did see wildlife in the form of moose, mule deer, porcupineslong horned sheep and bison amongst others. But the magic really started happening when I was able to see the wolves.

I am super aware that the re-introduction of wolves into Yellowstone has stirred up huge controversies in our country. Farmers, conservationists and hunters all have a very emotional opinion about these animals, some with good reason, others, not so much. Wolves inspire fear, anger, love and/or joy in most people and conversations can become quite intense very quickly. And the dialogue recently became more heated when the federal government took wolves off the endangered species list. This means that it is up to individual states to allow hunting…which of course is what is happening. While it pains me to know that wolves are now being hunted (for sport!) I have no desire to get caught up in the struggle one way or another. I do, however, feel blessed to have had some time observing these creatures.

Wolves are at the top of the food chain and are amazing creatures. I don’t have enough knowledge to talk about them scientifically, just suffice it to say that they have changed the ecosystem in the park very dramatically in the relatively short time they have been there (They began to be reintroduced in 1994) Click here for an excellent synopsis of the history of wolves in Yellowstone.

So what about my experience???

Well, as I stated in my first Yellowstone post, I got to watch a wolf for an hour through a telescope before he went off to the hill to take a nap. He knew we were there so he stayed at quite a distance. I could see him as a dot with my naked eye but it took the scope to see him closely. Our guide was able to capture him with my iPhone through the scope, a feat I never was able to master. So I have pictures of him, along with a picture of their tracks in the snow.

wolf
wolf
so beautiful
so beautiful
the glove shows the size of the wolf's paws
the glove shows the size of the wolf’s paws

There is quite the community of wolf watchers, all out there to observe behavior, take notes, and photograph them. These are the wolf lovers, the ones who have connected with the wolves on a deeper level, the ones who want to see new litters appear and grow up and form new packs. They are learning how to do this in a respectful and quiet way, and to respect the wolves’ privacy and shyness. Some of the wolves are tagged and have numbers, these people know what they look like and keep track of them. It’s a small group, but friendly and willing to share their knowledge with newbies out in the field.

Needless to say, it was a wonderful experience, one that I am so glad to have had. A trip worth remembering for many years to come.

here are more links for cool places to see and hear about wolves:

http://apps.npr.org/wolves/

http://www.npr.org/2014/02/08/273577607/montana-ranchers-learn-ways-to-live-with-wolves

http://www.californiawolfcenter.org/learn/wolf-facts/

 

 

17 thoughts on “wolves

  1. Enjoying your adventure in Yellowstone vicariously, this post connects with the experiences I’ve had with wolves (1) and the uncounted packs of humans who variously hate them, love them, chase them around and generally carry on whether it’s with a bumper sticker, a gun or a radio collar. Working in the forests of southwestern New Mexico where the Mexican grey wolf was reintroduced, I became acquainted with a variety of researchers while they quartered at my duty station as they followed the wolves around the Gila Wilderness via satellite dish. More often I encountered ranchers and hunters, and listened to the tall tales they’d tell about all the lost cattle and elk. The most humorous remembrance is the school-bus stops, small sheds with heavy chain link fencing completely covering the structures… windows, walls and door. Gun ports through the window mesh, heavy chain on the door. (Wish I had a picture, but I was always driving a green ‘guv’mint truck’, I tended not to stop in those neighborhoods. 😉

    My one encounter was very simple; a lone wolf left a completely straight line of tracks across a rare dusting of snow, through my camp in the late night hours as I lay asleep. I followed the trail for perhaps a mile before the warming New Mexico sun melted the traces of it’s passing, the wolf maintained that same heading off across the high desert juniper and rock.

    1. Your post makes me think about how passions can border on the ridiculous. It is amazing that people spend all their waking moments living and breathing a wild animal. On the other spectrum are the bus stops that you saw. What is it about animals that can inspire such extremes?

      1. I believe it’s because we are still animals ourselves …
        Iconic wild (and domestic) animal species trigger deep seated connections in humans. An urban dweller may long for the free ranging power and intelligence symbolized by a wolf, where the rural rancher sees it as a threat to his tenuous life on the edge of the wild-lands. For a rancher the cow is the sacred, it symbolizes their pursuit of happiness and security. Sportsmen seek the power animals, it appears they urge to acquire the strength and spirit by killing them for the meat (hopefully) and the horns. It’s all about the horns these days…

        1. I really enjoyed reading this, I think you are spot on and I would like to ponder it. If I write some more about wolves etc. may I quote you???
          And what is it about horns…is it the size thing all over again?

          1. Certainly you may quote, I’m honored.
            Yes, it’s that ‘big rack’ mentality. Again, still…

            I get a better adrenaline rush from a wolfs howl or seeing a fresh cougar track, knowing they’ve seen me while I had not a clue. Waking up to a silhouette on the tent wall of a moonlit bear is a large charge too.

          2. Totally. I was so happy snow shoeing in the Lamar Valley and hearing the wolf howl the next morning. I haven’t been that happy in a loooooong time. I had a silly grin on my face and I had to stop myself from jumping up and down. I think you and I are kindred spirits. I finally have figured out that there is actually a term for me…a naturalist! who knew???

          3. Welcome to the tribe…
            Lamar Valley is a favorite spot in Yellowstone… trout, grizzlies and grumpy old bison on the banks of Soda Butte Creek.

          4. Sometimes it’s better that way, it’s taken me that and a few more. I know more than a few professionals who profess a lot about a rather narrow view.

  2. A beautiful sight indeed. When I was a young lass I read a book about wolves which absolutely fascinated me. I think it was Never Cry Wolf. Do you know it?

  3. How wonderful that you were able to see wolves during your visit! I’ve been intrigued by them ever since I read Never Cry Wolf as a child. I loved reading these posts on your visit to Yellowstone.

    1. I’m glad you liked the posts, I so enjoyed writing them. I just got out Never Cry Wolf from the library but have to finish the other wolf book, Three Among Wolves first. They are really fascinating creatures.

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