One of the more amazing things I had the chance to do last week while I was in Yellowstone was to spend some time with park ranger Rick McIntyre who took our band of travel writers out to spot the elusive wolves that now call the park home. I wrote about this experience at length this morning over at Gadling, but definitely wanted to share some thoughts on it here as well, as it was one of those opportunities that rarely come along in your lifetime.
Now don’t get me wrong, it is quite possible to spot wolves in Yellowstone. There are a number of packs that wander the park, and while they are shy when it comes to human attention, a little patience and some sharp eyes, will go a long way. But, having the opportunity to watch them with McIntyre is a completely different experience. He is THE guy in Yellowstone when it comes to tracking and observing what the wolves are up to. As I noted in the Gadling story, the wolves are his life, and he works 10+ hours per day, seven days a week, to keep track of what they are up to. In fact, it has been more than a decade since he has take a day off, and pressed on the topic he sheepishly says, “what else would I do?”
McIntyre has endless stories about the wolves, and he knows them inside and out. He knows who the wolves were sired by, and he knows their personalities inside and out. He spins endlessly fascinating tales of the politics of the pack, and told us stories about the wolves that only hinted at the intricate dynamic that not only exists inside those packs, but between them as well.
While we sat on an exposed hill, peering through a powerful spotting scope, watching members of the Blacktail Pack on a distant ridge, it was hard not to feel empathy for the wolves. Through Rick’s stories, they ceased to be wild animals wandering Yellowstone, but had instead become characters in a dramatic story that unfolded on a daily basis. It added a unique element to watching them, even from a distance, that makes the experience a lasting one.
If you head out to Yellowstone, and I highly recommend that you do, be sure to take a good pair of binoculars or a spotting scope of your own, and keep your eyes peeled for the wolves. Better yet, watch out for Rick’s yellow Nissan Xterra, as he’s sure to be close by if you spot it. He is always happy to share stories and give some hints on where to find the wolves.