Watching the Wolves in Yellowstone National Park, USA



Being a Jan Fennell Dog Listener, not only am I fortunate enough to be in a position to help dogs and their owners, three years ago I was part of the first Dog Listener Tour of Yellowstone National Park, together with Jan herself and 17 of my colleagues from around the world. Our studies over the years have included learning about our dogs’ ancestors, the wolves. Primarily focusing on wild wolves that are out of human influence, to understand how they communicate and behave naturally, and the best place in the world to do this is Yellowstone where wolves were re-introduced back in 1995. One particular pack that is very close to our hearts is the infamous Druid Peak Pack as we have followed their lives very closely.

Yellowstone National Park is vast, approximately 2 million acres, and is filled with breathtaking scenery and full of wildlife, a natural eco-system. We went in February which is mating season for the wolves, the landscape was covered in deep snow with temperatures hitting 20º below, so lots of layered clothing was a must and all sense of fashion went out of the window! Our guides were wolf biologists Nathan Varley and Linda Thurston who have been involved with the Yellowstone wolf recovery programme since its inception. For the first part of our tour, we stayed in a town called Gardiner, Montana which is at the North Entrance to the Park, and from here we travelled every day to the Lamar Valley, home of the Druid Peak Pack.

Each day was an early start, out at 6am while it was still dark having hot drinks and breakfast on the move. On our first day we excitedly set off and drove through the gateway and into the park, and as the sun rose we saw this stunning place for the first time, its beauty really takes your breath away. We saw coyote, bison, elk, and our first wolf pack sighting was three wolves sitting on a hillside, we jumped out of the van and put up the scopes, and were told these were two Druid black females and an unknown grey male courting them. The male had been trying to join the pack for a while and the Alpha male wouldn’t allow it, but that still didn’t stop him pursuing the ladies! We watched these wolves over the next few days and on the third day we saw only one of the black females on a hill howling and looking distressed, she had been separated from the other female that was now with the grey male. We quickly drove to a spot overseen by Druid Peak Mountain, stopped and jumped out, then we heard the sound of howling and finally there they were, the Druids, on a hill together, and calling to the females. Words just cannot describe this magical sound, when you hear it for real, it truly flows right through you and touches your soul, it is so moving. We spent most of the afternoon watching the Druids, some were sleeping, some were playing, and some were watching us too! It was the most amazing experience seeing these wonderful creatures in their natural environment.

During the rest of our time we also saw the Leopold Pack and on the last day we were fortunate enough to see the whole Slough Creek Pack, all thirteen of them, and we even saw Alpha male and female tie under a tree. We were so very lucky in that every day we were there we saw wolves.

And if that wasn’t enough, each evening we were treated to the most inspirational presentations by Bob Landis, an Emmy award-winning wildlife cinematographer, Dr. Jim Halfpenny author of Yellowstone Wolves in the Wild, Dan Stahler, Wolf Project Biologist for Yellowstone, and we were also invited to spend time with Dan Hartman, a naturalist and wildlife photographer, at his home in the forest mountains of Montana.

I learned so much, the above is just a little taste of the most amazing time, and if course sharing the tour with Jan and my colleagues made the experience even more special and fun, the memory of this adventure of a lifetime will stay with me forever.

If you are interested in finding out more, or you would like to enjoy the experience of Yellowstone yourself, visit www.janfennellthedoglistener.com. For further details of tours and to discover more about Yellowstone visit www.yellowstonewolfguides.com/index.php.

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