DANCES WITH WOLVES

By Céline Dartigues

Julie-Victoire Daubié High School, Argenteuil, France.

 

When I first read Ms. Liza Macki, an instructor and administrator for Ecology Project International, would provide us with opportunities to learn more about the wolves in Yellowstone National Park, I pictured myself as the new John Dunbar befriending “Two Socks”.

Wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone is still a controversial issue which triggers either hatred or love among people since they hunt sheep, cows and elks. There is no middle ground! As you may guess it, I am fascinated by these wild predators which roam the Western prairies. I was stunned when Liz told us that from 1926 to 1989, no wolves could be seen in the U.S. Although the park had been created in 1872 and wolves had been listed in the 1969 Endangered Species Act, it was not until the end of the eighties that a plan was set. As the species had entirely disappeared, wolves were brought from Canada between 1995-1997 – if you listen closely, you may hear some have a slight French howling … Thanks to rangers and wolf lovers, between 400 and 500 wolves are found in the park. Yet, the situation is far from being trouble free. Indeed, states provide licence to hunt them considering they are now too numerous. Consequently, wildlife organisations fight to protect these animals.

 

06 Female or the Angelina Jolie of wolves

Then Liz told us the story of 06 Female also known as the Angelina Jolie of wolves in Yellowstone. I couldn’t believe my ears while Liz was describing her legendary life. Angie who was born in 2006 ( i.e. ’06), was drop-dead gorgeous. Her grey coat and athletic size made her irresistible. Unlike most females, she didn’t seem to worry about finding a mate and having puppies. Later, she decided to dump her five suitors and leave the pack; if the Spice Girls still existed, I bet they would write a song about her: She-Wolf Power! 06 could afford such a behavior because she was a natural born huntress. While most groups size for hunting was four, 06 could take an elk down on her own! When she was 6 years old- which is quite old for a wolf – , she encountered two brothers, 754 and 755, with whom she mated. However, what astonished me the most, was to hear that the two males would take care of the puppies while she was hunting. She leaded successfully her pack until 754 and her, one week later, were shot. They were out of the park and the hunter had a permit, no tag was needed! Nevertheless, her shooting has relaunched the debate about licence. This story brought tears to my eyes …

 

Hunting wolves at dawn

The following day, we woke up at 3.30 a.m. to observe the wolves, more precisely the ones living in the Lamar Valley, where 06 lived. Despite the rain and the cold, we spent long minutes trying to spot them. I was able to see the den entrance but not lucky enough to spot one of them. Perttu, my Finish “friend,” got a glimpse at a grey one. Well, I guess I will have to come back another time!

This experience was amazing. I teach environmental issues and endangered species to Sophomores. Guess what? 06 and the Yellowstone experience will definitively have a prominent place in this unit. Thank you SUSI.

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