Land of the Lost Wolves BBC Documentary Transcript

Hi, it’s Greenygrey. They’re awful busy creating a new site over at Suite 101, so we thought we’d skip the articles and just copy our transcript here in two parts for now, so you’ll be the first to see it. It will hopefully be of interest to you, and should be particularly useful for those unable to see the documentaries. A mutt called Jeff transcribed them, so blame him for any mistakes. There’s more about muttley Jeff at the end of the transcript.

Land of the Lost Wolves, part 1: Winter

Series producer: Jonny Keeling

Narrator: Alisdair Simpson

Across the planet, most wildlife is under threat, but against the odds, one animal is making a comeback. In North America it is controversial. Team of wildlife experts go to the frontline, to work out how far they are spreading.

For thousands of years wolves were North America’s top predator. Fierce, formidable. When Europeans arrived they were pushed out of the US, and into wilds of Canada. More than a million exterminated.

Introduce wildlife experts team:

Gordon Buchanan, global wildlife cameraman.

Jasmine Minbashian, local wildlife campaigner: spent years travelling through the Cascade Mountains, dreaming of the return of wolves. She was 5 months pregnant, but didn’t want to pass up this chance.

Isaac Babcock: wildlife tracker.

Winter base camp in the Cascades. They have one month to find pack: it’s 70 years since wolves were in the Cascades.

Wolves can smell humans from a mile away, and hear them from much further

Buchanan uses wolf urine on tree to try and attract wolves

Wolves can travel 50 miles in a day.

Pack in region been named the Lookout Pack, thought to be 10 strong.

Doug Smith, wolf expert. Says 200 years from now he’d like to see wolves from Canada down to Mexico, a mountain highway.

Team tracking the pack in winter, as tracks easier to find.

Isaac teaches Gordon to howl, try it in one valley, but no response.

Ask locals, who say they have sighted wolves.

Buchanan (in greenygrey) unpacks a robo wolf: it howls, and they hope it will attract wolves.

Gordon Buchanan with robowolf.

Then Buchanan hikes into mountains with 35kg of kit. Says wolves can do 50 times his speed; they are built for speed and stamina. Shows difficulty of surviving in the mountains, and how wolves are perfectly adapted to the situation.

Isaac shows Gordon a wolf track: nails, heel pad, toes. Gordon says they are enormous: ‘We’ve got a wolf, that is a wolf.’ But it’s not a fresh track.

Jasmine looks through film footage from cameras near camp, and sees a wolf coming around a tree. Good news at the end of a tough week.

Doug Smith says large carnivores like wolves are as important to the  structure of the natural system as sunshine and climate. Wolves are the top animal predator in North America. Without wolves, deer and elk overgraze, and this harms the environment.

Doug Smith shows how reintroducing wolves has balanced the Yellowstone environment. Plants have grown again, providing a habitat for songbirds, wood for beavers etc.

Biologists hope wolves will balance nature in the same way in the Cascades Mountains.

Gordon sets up a hide near a carcass, with deer distress calls intermittently played.

Isaac finds fresh tracks made by 2 wolves, about an hour ahead. Then finds the carcass of a young mule deer. He says wolves can crush bone down to nothing. Thinks they killed it a day or two ago, and have been coming down to feed on it since.

Show bobcat, cougars caught on camera. Cougars have benefitted from wolves’ absence.

Local biologist, Scott Fitkin, has heard wolves, and called Jasmine out at dawn. They listen to howling. First time she’s heard wolves in this area. Jasmine hopes there’s a female, and they are breeding. Then they see two wolves on the horizon. One is howling. Then they stop, and are just looking down. Jasmine says they are so calm.

Wolves howling mournfully on hill.

Back at camp, they review the video. Jasmine thinks the howling is mournful, and hopes it’s not a sign that the female is missing. They think the other wolf is a young male.

Doug Smith says that part of the appeal of the wolf is that they are a ‘noble species, that feels things like humans do’; a male who loses its mate will howl at a higher rate than normal for several days. Some biologists say the wolves are mourning. Don’t know for sure, but do know that for several days their behaviour is different.

Jasmine worries that the female is lost, and the alpha is waiting for her to return.

Gordon goes to meet ranchers. Wolves are protected by law in Washington state.

One rancher says they have a saying about dealing with wolves: ‘shoot, shovel and shut-up.’ Another three say that if wolves are a threat to their livestock and families they’ll shoot.

Gordon says it is okay when wolves and humans are kept apart, but when they are close together the controversy and clashes start.

Isaac finds a wolf den and goes inside. He says it looks like the pack has been broken up.

Narrator says wolves can survive on their own, but only thrive as part of a pack.

Doug Smith says a big part of wolf life is they are a social animal. Only 2-3 % of animals live as a family, and the wolf is one of them. Pups, yearlings, 2 year olds, sometimes even 3 year olds living under the alpha pair. We call it a pack, essentially it is a family, and they live in that social state all their lives.

Narrator says Lookout pack need pups to continue the pack.

Week 3, and Gordon is called into the Washington State Wildlife Enforcement HQ. An officer says they’d had 2 calls reporting an individual had killed a wolf, and they found a carcass. A lab report found it had been shot: it was missing its feet and head, and was decomposed when found. It had also been skinned. Done on purpose.

Gordon says Lookout pack is in dire straits, and man-made.

Then show newspaper headlines about wolf deaths, and narrator says 3 local people were later charged with killing 5 members of the Lookout pack. That’s why the team has been struggling to locate the pack, and only found 2 wolves.

Jasmine’s in camp. Her worst fears have come true.

She goes to meet Ron Gillette, anti-wolf campaigner. He shows photos of an elk he said was killed by wolves: all chewed out on the rear end, before being left. Another one with blood around.

Gillette says he wants big game herds for sports. Says wolves being good for the eco-system is a load of baloney.

Narrator says Lookout pack might be in decline, but reinforcements might be on the way, howling has been heard just 20 miles away, and new tracks found on the border with Canada.

Gordon goes out to investigate, with husky team. 8 hour climb.

Jasmine follows up a sighting over 100 miles further down from base camp. Jasmine said if verified, they will be the furthest south recorded.

Gordon howls on the mountain, joined in by the huskies, but no response. So he continues north to the border with Canada, the most inhospitable part of the mountains. Not even huskies can make it up there.

Local biologists have positioned cameras there. Gordon finds a wolf, and then two more, It is a new pack. Gordon has found a route wolves are using to cross into the States. Gordon says the Lookout pack, the pioneer pack, might be wiped out, but he hopes there is an unstoppable tide of wolves returning to Washington state.

*Mutt and Jeff is rhyming slang for deaf.


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