I heard it one morning,
the long and lonesome howl
of an endangered species
I knew was on the prowl;
It’s cry touched my heart
as I froze to the call,
my hands shook a little,
my legs began to stall.
The call echoed down the canyon
as the silence was broken;
every part of my soul
is forever awoken.
2012 by 7th grade student-Kayla Smith at Sinagua Middle School Flagstaff AZ
It was 8:00 in the morning and we were just outside of Old Faithful. We began our morning by leaving Lewis Lake Campground at 4:00 am, with the intentions of arriving in the Lamar Valley by 6:00 am to watch for wolves. Needless to say, stopping for photos delayed us quite a bit. We were just passing through an open area and could see a number of cars pulling off the road about 1/4 mile ahead. Bison, I thought, but as I looked over to the fields I couldn’t see anything.
My one wish for all the years we’ve been camping at Yellowstone was to see wolves without needing a spotting scope. When we wintered camp at Mammoth Hot Springs we would spend our days roaming the Lamar valley in search of them. We would always end up needing to peek through a wolf watcher’s spotting scope. And then they were still difficult to see, they looked so tiny and so far away.
Well this weekend in September my wish came true. We saw all of these cars pulling off to the side of the road in the turnouts but we couldn’t see what they had spotted. That was until we took out our binoculars. Wolves! Four of them , two black and two grey-unbelievable. My heart was racing and I had shivers down my back. My soul and spirit were soaring, I felt so very blessed and so lucky to be in the right place at the right time. I felt that same surprised feeling you get when someone does something so extra special for you, something you never expected . My heart was beating so fast and so hard I thought I could hear it echoing in the van. I opened the door and asked Jim to switch seats with me so I could use the driver’s window as my tripod.I was not going to lose anytime setting up a tripod. You know how quickly the wild animals disappear in Yellowstone. It’s like a magical disappearing act, poof and they are gone.
I hoped and prayed for this moment and while one little voice was saying it will happen, another little voice was saying , sigh another trip to Yellowstone and no wolves. The spell has been broken, the magic happened on Tuesday September 7th at 8:00 am. I promise you I will never ever forget that moment. Is it selfish of me to wish for more moments like that? Wishing for many more is what I’m doing. But if it never happens again the magic has filled my soul and can never be taken away.
First of all they were closer than any wolves we have ever encountered in Yellowstone. Usually we spot them out in the Lamar Valley and even taking a peek with someone’s spotting scope the wolves are the size of ants (maybe a little exaggeration). But on this day these beautiful creatures were less than the length of two football fields away from us. I can’t tell you how many times I whispered thank you God, thank you Buddha, thank you Universe. This was one of the most magical moments I have experienced in nature.
We kept trying to figure out what they were looking at, but there came a point when we didn’t care, we were just so grateful to be seeing them and then when they started to howl, oh my gosh, I felt so blessed and so fortunate to experience that haunting sound.
According to the most recent 2020 Annual Yellowstone National Park Wolf Study :
“At the end of December 2020, there were at least 123 wolves in nine packs (seven breeding pairs1) living primarily in Yellowstone
National Park (YNP). This census was the highest park count since 2008 (124 wolves) and marked a one-year increase of 31%
after a decade of very little population change year to year. Much of the growth was attributed to successful pup production and
survival in multiple packs, most notably the Junction Butte pack which produced four litters and raised 18 pups through the end
of the year. The 2020 total is 29.3% lower than the high count of 174 wolves in 2003“.
If you have time click on the study link above it’s filled with information about the nine Yellowstone packs.
We must have sat there for 15-20 minutes just watching and enjoying the moment. Then they took off running and disappeared over the ridge. I could have sat there for weeks just watching them and their interaction with each other. There were times when I would close my eyes and just listen to the howls-so beautiful.
Once they disappeared and the crowds dispersed we just sat there talking to each other about what an unbelievable experience. An experience neither of us will ever forget. And certainly one we are eternally grateful to have been a part of.
“The gaze of the wolf reaches into our soul.” – Barry Lopez