Thursday, May 31, 2012

Final Day in Yellowstone: New Friendships and a Tearful Farewell

The Wolf Conservation Center's Spring Yellowstone Adventure is coming to a close. WCC's Alex Spitzer sent us his final report and it sounds like the great crew will be bringing back some great memories, photos, and new friendships.

Final Day in Yellowstone
Today was our last day in the park and boy was it exciting. Not only was it another three dog day (wolf, coyote, and fox), but we also saw both types of bear (black and grizzly) that are found in the park. One other interesting addition today was that we were joined by Scott Frazier of the Crow and Santee Tribes. He is also the founder of Project Indigenous, a group whose goal is to incorporate indigenous knowledge into solving many of the climate concerns we are currently faced with. Scott joined us today to tell us about some of work that he has done in Yellowstone as well as some history about the indigenous peoples of the greater Yellowstone region.

Our day started off with the sighting of a big beautiful bald eagle perching on a tree next to the road. There were tons of bison on the road in the morning but otherwise, nothing too different than the previous days. By the time we arrived in the Lamar Valley, however, things had changed. We pulled off near where we saw two members of the Lamar Canyon pack the previous day and were ecstatic to see that eight members of that same pack were harassing a female elk. After a standoff that lasted only a couple of minutes, the wolves decided that the elk was too healthy to take on and let the elk run off. This was probably one of the coolest things I have ever seen.

View from Apache Ridge

After witnessing the standoff we heading down the road to a place we call Apache Ridge. It is named that because on our trip two years ago, we spread some of the ashes of Apache, one of our original ambassador wolves. This time we came with a different mission, to add the ashes of our other two original ambassadors, Lukas and Kaila. Although we wanted to put their ashes with Apache, we found that the ridge was blocked off since the Lamar Canyon Pack was using it to cross the road. We decided that across the street along the Soda Butte Creek would be a perfect place. We were greatly honored to have Scott along with us who performed a brief ceremony as we spread the ashes. Scott chanted the Meadow Larks Song, a chant that he learned from his brother and performed in 1995 as the first group of wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National park. By the end of the ceremony, we were all almost in tears.
After finishing the ceremony and taking a few minutes of silence, we headed back down the road to Tower Falls to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. As we stared in awe of the landscape before us, we noticed a mother mountain sheep and her two calves walking alongside the cliff face. As we got ready to head down the road to the falls, we noticed a large group of people forming so walked down to find black bear grazing in an open field. Our final stop was the falls, another spectacular sight. We even saw an osprey nest which had an osprey sitting in it.

Tomorrow we will be heading back to Bozeman for the night before returning home. We are all sad to be leaving but we are looking forward to coming back next year. Big thanks to Nathan Varley, Linda Thurston, and everyone else that helped make this trip amazing!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Day Two in Yellowstone: A Detour Brings Surprises!

According to the Wolf Conservation Center's Alex Spitzer, the WCC Yellowstone Adventure has been full of surprises!

The Road Not Taken

What an interesting start to the day! When Nathan came to pick us up, he came bearing news that the majority of the park was closed due to unknown reasons. We decided to head into Mammoth Hot Springs and followed the only open road to the Swan Flats. On the way to Mammoth, however, make a quick stop to view a coyote running across the plain next to our bus. Once we arrived at Swan Lake, we spent some time viewing a Sandhill crane and various water foul. After about 45 minutes we decided to head back to see if the road to the Lamar Valley was open. Lucky for us, the road had been opened. A bit down the road across from the buffalo ranch in Lamar Valley, we found an incredibly rare find, a badger. Linda noticed the badger by the huge piles of dirt it was throwing into the air. We watched him dig until he caught a ground squirrel and then he ran back a ways to eat it. If that wasn’t exciting enough, at Soda Butte, we saw at a good distance F820 and another member of the Lamar Canyon pack scratching away at a log. We were a bit puzzled this behavior until we saw the wolves run off to chase a coyote away. Just when we though the coyote had learned its lesson, we noticed it running back up to the log before being chased off again by the wolves. We think that under the log the wolves were digging at was a coyote den and the wolves were trying to get the coyotes. We couldn’t think of any other reason that the coyote would keep coming back.

After these wonderful sightings, we started heading off toward Dan Hartman’s house in Silver Gate, just outside the northeast entrance to the park. Not to far from his house we had one more amazing discovery, a moose. We didn’t get to see it too long before it ran off but we were all pretty amazed. When we arrived at Dan’s house, we spent quite a bit of time looking at the photos in his gallery. Dan is an amazing photographer who does a lot of photo work for various documentaries for National Geographic and BBC to name a few. We ate lunch while watching a slideshow of Dan’s newest photos. As were about to leave, Dan called us back to see one of his famous residents, a pine martin. After awhile of being observed, it decided to hit the road and we did the same. On the way back to Gardiner, we had the great opportunity to get some pretty good footage of a black bear not too far from the road. By this point, we were all in awe of how the day had changed from so many road closures to such great wildlife viewing.

We were pretty sure the day couldn’t get much better but we soon found out that Jim Halfpenny, probably the world’s best-known animal tracker, president of A Naturalist’s World, and the author of over 25 books, was joining us for dinner. Over dinner we discussed many of Jim’s projects and following another amazing meal by our chef Zac Kellerman, we went downstairs to see the worlds largest collection of animal tracks and to discuss what the benefits of keeping such an extensive collection are. After looking through the collection which included a dire wolf skull, we turned in for the night and prepared for our final day in the park.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Day One in Yellowstone: A Three Dog Day!

Over the weekend we received our first Yellowstone report from Wolf Conservation Center's Alex Spitzer. It appears the WCC's Spring Yellowstone Adventure was off to a snowy start! Big thanks to Alex for sharing his experience and photos!

Settling In
Our morning started off pretty casually. Everyone had flown in the day/night before to avoid outrageous ticket prices so there was no rush to get things together. We all awoke the surprise of snow; in fact it was snowing sideways with all of the wind blowing around. Nathan Varley met us at the Best Western in Bozeman, MT and we started our drive to Gardiner, MT, the northern entrance to Yellowstone National Park. The drive was a bit rough with all of the wind, however, the valley made for some great photo opportunities. We stopped along the way to have some lunch in Livingston, before arriving in Gardiner. Once we got into town, Nathan took us for a quick tour, before letting us settle in at the motel. We used this bit of free time to go explore the town, despite the heavy snow and very cold temperatures. What better way to get used to the temperature?

Day One
What an interesting morning. We awoke to find a good two inches of snow had fallen overnight in Gardiner, which means even more in the park. When we left at 5am, the roads were covered and there was almost no visibility. Luckily, when we arrived at the park entrance, we found the gates were open. Apparently though, Mammoth Hot Springs had already put away the snow plows so the roads were a bit rough. During the earliest part of the morning there wasn’t much to see until we arrived at Slough Creek..

We saw three grizzly bears a good distance away, a large herd of bison, and some pronghorns that were trying to sneak by behind us. After spending a bit of time at the creek, we noticed the large herd of bison had started running at full speed toward us. There was no real concern since they were probably over a mile away, however, after about 10 minutes they were approaching a stones throw distance from us.

As everyone became to grab their scopes and get out of the way, the herd made one final turn and went up a hill away from us. After everyone settled down a bit, we started looking around for what may have been spooking the bison, and in the far far distance we saw our first two Yellowstone wolves, Big Blaze and a black female from the Mollies pack that he has been with lately. Needless to say, we spent a good deal of time looking for small glimpses of either of these two wolves.

After awhile of not seeing them, we packed up and started heading back down the road to Little America Flats where we heard rumors that Big Blaze had moved to. As it turns out, the rumors were correct and spent a good bit more time watching both Big Blaze and the black wolf. Through our spotting scopes we could see Big Blaze howling and a few seconds later, we heard the amazing sound of a wild wolf howl. After Big Blaze once again disappeared we were amazed to see a coyote go running across the landscape not to far from us. We were in awe, but it was time to head back.

The final stop we made was to see some pronghorns and bighorn sheep. They were really cool to see but the thing that really got everyone’s attention was a red fox that was posing nicely on a rock next to some campgrounds. We were all amazed to have the seen all three canids in Yellowstone Nation Park on the first day. Linda Thurston proclaimed it a “three dog day”.

Our final event for the day was to meet with Bob Landis, an Emmy award winning wildlife cinematographer who has created films such as Rise of the Black Wolf. Bob showed us some rough cuts of things that he has been recording over the last year including some of the interesting behavior being exhibited by the Mollies pack as they spread throughout the park. Off to bed in anticipation of what tomorrow may bring.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Enjoy Your Holiday Weekend!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Milestone for WCC's Ambassador Wolf "Pups!"

A year ago today the Wolf Conservation Center family grew a little bigger. My how they've grown... Happy one year anniversary, Zephyr and Alawa! You're both doing an amazing job teaching people about the importance of your wild brothers and sisters (and stealing the hearts of all that you meet as well!)

In honor of the pups' anniversary, we're offering a special e-book with photos, and some text, from the pups' first month at the WCC. The 22 page e-book is designed for iPads and iPhones. Sorry about the limitation, but it's all the publisher offers right now. (There are epub readers for other devices, but make sure the format works on your device before purchasing the book.) You can also order a softcover printed version of the photo album, though the e-book is a much more economical choice. Click here to preview the book or order one today!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wolf Conservation Center's Yellowstone Adventures Begins

Some members of the Wolf Conservation Center's education team are heading to Yellowstone National Park with some friends to meet up with the great folks from The Wild Side, LLC for a week of wildlife watching! Last year's spring and summer adventures were a great success and we expect the same for this season's crew of adventure seekers. They're in the great hands! The Wild Side's Nathan and Linda are phenomenal guides and are among a special group of Yellowstone "Ambassadors," wonderful folks who can't help but enhance the thrill one feels when beholding the country’s oldest national park. We still have room in our summer adventure so if you up for a thrill of a lifetime, please click here for more details.

The WCC's Alex Spitzer promises to send photos and reports from the field so please stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Wild Thing

Thanks to some extremely dedicated teachers from PS98M, very supportive parents, the Inwood Hill Park Rangers, and the generous donors at, the Wolf Conservation Center was able to bring Atka to visit some AMAZING kids despite the odds against us. What an inspirational day.

Enjoy the video!

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Day for Rare Species

National Endangered Species Day is a day to remind us of the significance of protecting endangered species and the wild habitat they require. We all have the responsibility to affect the world and today is a perfect day to use your voice in order to speak up for species in need. There are many resources online to help people learn and act on behalf of endangered wolves.

Please visit the following websites to act on behalf of:

The last 58 Mexican gray wolves in the wild -
The 100-130 red wolves of North Carolina -
The gray wolves in Oregon -
The gray wolves of the Northern Rockies -

For additional information about National Endangered Species Day and what you can do in your community and beyond, please visit the Endangered Species Coalition -

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Happy Birthday Atka!

Today the big guy turns 10 years old! It's hard to believe our Ambassador pup is all grown up. Seems like it was just yesterday when hundreds of people traveled to the Wolf Conservation Center’s Pup Fair to celebrate arrival of the stunning fellow. But think of all the people he has touched since his puppy-hood in 2002. Atka has traveled to over 1000 schools, libraries, nature centers, etc... and he never fails to impress the masses with his rock-star attitude. He's a true road warrior, an inspiration, and for the WCC staff and volunteers - the best boss we'll ever have. With the mission to educate people about wolves, their relationship in the environment, and the human role in protecting their future, the WCC family thanks Atka for his valued service. You never know, Atka may be in your neck of the woods soon!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rest in Peace

Jean Craighead George R.I.P. (July 2, 1919 - May 15, 2012)
Today we lost a hero, an inspiration, an "old wolf," and a friend. Keep howling. We miss you, Jean.

Last Day to Speak Up For Wyoming Wolves

As we began 2011, wolves of the Northern Rockies were listed as endangered. Just a few months later everything changed for this special population of predators.

A year ago Congress passed a 2011 budget rider (Sec. 1713) that removed Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections from wolves of the Northern Rockies. Wolves in Idaho, Montana, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon and northern Utah were removed from the endangered species list and put under state control. Congress excluded Wyoming from this rule so wolves of this state are still federally protected, but not for long.

Although U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) criticized Wyoming's wolf plan on the grounds that unregulated shooting in most of the state would reduce the state’s wolf population below federally required levels, this summer Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar reached an agreement to strip ESA protections from Wyoming’s wolves.

Wyoming's proposed wolf management plan calls for the state to:
  • Deem wolves predators in 90% of the state (all but the northwest corner of Wyoming), where they could be killed by any means, at any time, without a license.
  • In Wyoming's northwest corner, right outside Yellowstone National Park, classify wolves as trophy game animals meaning they could only be hunted with a license.
  • Maintain only 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside of Yellowstone National Park
Many of our supporters have reached out to us asking how they can take action on behalf of Wyoming's wolves. If your hackles are up too because of Wyoming's wolf management plan, now is your chance to comment. Tomorrow is the deadline for sending comments to the U.S.F.W.S. about their revised plan and Defenders of Wildlife makes it easy for you to speak up. Please click here to tell U.S.F.W.S. that you oppose the delisting of wolves in Wyoming under their current state plan.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Wisconsin Wolves Need Our Voice

Our friends from the National Wolfwatcher Coalition created this compelling video to help people better understand some of the unnatural challenges Wisconsin's recovered wolf population will soon face if the state's Act 169 is passed. Please watch and follow this link to learn more about the cruel hunting methods this bill would allow and how you can help prevent them by contacting Wisconsin's Natural Resource Board (NRB) and the DNR Secretary to demand enforcement of the current wolf management plan. Talking points and contact info are included. Thank you!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

Mexican wolf F613 with pup - 2007
Wishing F749, F613, F628, F1397 and all the mothers out there a wonderful Mother's Day!her's Day!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Congratulations to Mexican Wolves F749 & M740!

The Wolf Conservation Center family just got a whole lot bigger! Sometime last night Mexican wolf F749 quietly had eight pups under a thicket. All five boys and three girls appear to be in good health so now it's time to let the new parents do their jobs. M740 and F749 are a vital pair, they have the lowest inbreeding coefficient in the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan. These pups are not only adorable, they're also great contributions to the recovery of their species.

To watch live video of this special family, please visit our webcams page on the WCC website:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

WCC Joins Defenders of Wildlife's Week For Idaho Wolves

It's the first anniversary since Congress stripped federal protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies and Defenders is calling on their supporters to shine the national spotlight on Idaho's shameful wolf killing policies.
Atka shows his support!

To learn more about Defenders' great work and how you can get involved, please visit their website at or click here.

WCC's Staff Pack Member

WCC's Spencer wilhelm

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

WildEarth Guardians Requests Court to Stop Illegal Extermination Programs

One might imagine that an agency called "Wildlife Services" would take on a supportive role in safeguarding wildlife. Think again. Often dubbed "the Killing Agency," this branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has had hackles raised among members of wildlife conservation communities for years and now thanks to a recent three part article in The Sacramento Bee, some staggering facts about this agency are being revealed to the general public. According to WildEarth Guardians, the agency "spent nearly $1 billion to kill nearly 23 million animals using aerial guns, poisons, traps, snares, and hounds, purportedly to protect agriculture and other private interests as part of a grossly ineffective and wasteful program." WildEarth Guardians also charges that the agency's wildlife extermination programs are illegal and yesterday filed suit to put an end to them. “Wildlife Services relies upon antiquated studies in order to justify its wildlife-killing activities,” said Ashley Wilmes, staff attorney for WildEarth Guardians, “and we want it to shut down its lethal operations—particularly those that are conducted in designated Wilderness Areas.” Kudos to The Sacramento Bee for their investigation of Wildlife Services and to WildEarth Guardians for standing up for the wildlife, environment, and communities that are threatened by the agency's practices.

Here is a link to The Sacramento Bee's three part story:

To learn more about WildEarth Guardians and how to support their work, please follow this link: