|Timber Wolf - Canis lupus|
Canon 7D + Canon 300mm f2.8L IS
Jasper, NP Canada
In 1986 I took my first trip to Denali National Park. Our group met near Savage Creek, camped in the open air and prepped for a long back-country hike. Cocooned by the down of our bags, we kept the tents packed and hoped for a quick start. That was the night when I heard them for the first time. With eyes closed I can still hear the prolonged cries echoing across the sub-arctic sky. I watched the Northern Lights dance, and listened for competing packs staking claims to parcels of land. I didn’t see any ghosts that year, nor the next during a trek through the Kenai, but I knew they were there.
I live in Minnesota, the land of 3000 wolves... soon to be 2600. I am a teacher, biologists and nature photographer. I’ve traveled across my state, headed west to Yellowstone and northeast to the Wisconsin borderlands. I search for the ghosts who meander through forests, hunt in packs and hide in plain sight. I hear them while camping in the North Woods, can track them at a nearby refuge and have caught a glimpse of their hollow eyes during early morning drives. Yet, these midwestern wolves, immigrants from Canada, have been an elusive target.
Hiking along the bed of the Toklat, we saw our first mated pair. One black the other white, they are my metaphor for the rugged beauty that is Alaska. Black and white were famous, stars of tourist videos, seen by many and hunted by a wayward shooter looking for game near the National Park border.
So begins and ends this poetic rant. Minnesota, the land of “NICE,” has painted a target on the wolf. Some call it a sport, I call it a tragedy. With 23,000 applicants in a lottery for 6000 permits, the wolves better plan a retreat into the quiet of a deep wood. The Department of Natural Resources hopes to cull the pack by 400, but like many, I think their judgment is flawed. Deer populations continue to outpace our capacity to reduce the herd, and the DNR now endorses a hunt for the one animal that can control the browsers that overgraze the state. Years of hunting prohibition, land management and funding has restored the state’s wolf population and rather that exuding pride in our success, the state sanctions a hunt. This logic defies my own. They celebrate the wolf hunt... what’s next?... the Bald Eagle?
Enough said. Should you be interested in reading more about this upcoming tragedy, you can learn about future wolf hunts across Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming at: The Associated Press and Scientific American .
About the leading image... this wolf was photographed during our recent travels to the Canadian Rockies. After a long day of hiking and wildlife viewing we were heading back to the campsite as the sun was setting. We were surprised by the wolf that emerged from the forest, it walked a few paces towards us and disappeared. I shot only 9 pictures and all but one were total blurs. The image pictured is from a treasured moment that rivals my experiences with African Predators and Exotic Costa Rican Birds.
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