Last month saw Rowan, Rupert, Iliane and Jenny frantically buying warm clothes and snow shoes before embarking on a journey to Yellowstone National Park to track wolves for Rowans on-line television show ‘Endagerous.’
Established as a national park in 1872, primarily due to its many geothermal features, Yellowstone is famous for not only being the world’s first national park but for being one of the last, nearly intact, natural ecosystems in the Earth’s temperate zone. This, however, was not always the case. At the core of Yellowstone’s ecosystem is one of its top predators, the grey wolf. Although wolf packs once roamed from the Arctic tundra to Mexico, loss of habitat and extermination programs led to their demise throughout most of the United States by early in the 1900s. And the effect of their loss on Yellowstone National Park was significant. No wolves meant the elk population within the park swelled resulting in almost total destruction of the parks willow tree population which had a knock down effect on many other animals and plants as the parks ecosystem became unbalanced.
The reintroduction of wolves to the park in the 1990’s was deemed a success and early data suggests that the wolf recovery, there are now over 400 animals thought to be living within the park, is leading to greater biodiversity throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The wolves are also attracting large numbers of tourists on an annual basis keen to see these magnificent animals where they belong, in the wild.
And we were no exception. We spent three days in the park tracking the animals from dawn to dusk and were rewarded by multiple sightings from at least two of the park packs. At one point we were lucky enough to see the alpha male and female crossing the tundra whilst their six grown up pups playfully wrestled with one another until they were hurried along by their parents. Rowan learned to use a proper wildlife viewing scope and in between wolf sightings had a whale of a time building snow men, pelting us with snowballs and sliding down hills on his tummy.
And it wasn’t just wolves that we saw. The parks population of elk, bison, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep are a sight to see and we were even lucky enough to see a couple of moose hiding in the bushes. Rowan was thrilled at some many animal sightings and at one point described the park as an animal ‘wonderland.’
Watch this space for Rowan’s ‘Endangerous’ episode on the grey wolves of Yellowstone coming soon.