Hi, it’s Chris Packwolf. I’m delighted to say that Marc Latham has published his fourth Suite 101 article of the long weekend. The final article covers the third episode of the wildlife documentary trilogy, when Gordon Buchanan and the film team followed the remaining members of the polar bear family through autumn/fall. Did Lyra and Miki survive? Find out at: Polar Bear Family and Me.
Hi, it’s Chris Packwolf, natural world correspondent at the Greenygrey. I’m just back from filming my latest natural world spectacular. Thanks to Harry Silhouetteof-Wolfhowlingonhill for introducing Marc Latham’s article about the first episode of Nature’s Weird Events, presented by my human parallel Chris Packham.
millions of cicadas, elk and crabs passing through humanity.
Red-billed quelea’s knack for finding water helping create massive flocks that murmur like sparrows.
fireants that communicate by pheromones; and their fly nemesis, that can take over their bodies. The flies can only see ants when they move, so if an ant senses a fly it signals the others, and they stay still for hours.
The second and final episode of Land of the Lost Wolves saw the wildlife team return to the Cascade Mountains in summer. They set up a summer camp 100 miles lower than the winter camp.
Only 2 of the 10 Lookout pack wolves are thought to have survived.
But there are reports of other wolves that have travelled south into the US, and even further south than the Lookout pack. Isaac Babcock and Jasmine Minbashian head south to follow them up.
Meanwhile, Gordon Buchanan heads north to Canada, to search for the source of the wolves heading south.
Narrator reminds us that European settlers saw wolves as a threat or competition, and waged war on them. Then says that following sightings, government scientists managed to capture and radio-collar a young female wolf. Show a photo of her. It is the furthest south in the Cascades for nearly a century.
They also took a DNA sample from the wolf, and it shows she is a direct descendant of the Lookout pack. The DNA shows the wolf line stretches to the northern Cascades, and Great Bear Rainforest. More than 500 miles above where Jasmine is searching for wolves.
Switch to a boat on the Canadian Shore, where Gordon is now. It is preparing to sail up the coast in search of the Lookout pack’s ancestors. Introduce expert tracker, Chris Morgan, who is with Gordon. Chris left Lancashire, England at 19 to spend time with and study wolves and bears.
Few people live where they are heading, so wolves are quite safe, although they are still wary of humans. Shows Chris travelling up; he says it’s one of the most beautiful places he’s been, with cascading waterfalls dropping down through forest into the sea.
After landing, he says it is one of the wettest places in North America. He sets off on foot through a forest, and says it is dangerous because he could bump into an unsuspecting bear, so he calls out, to warn them, as grizzlies can be dangerous. He says almost all bear attacks in North America are under these circumstances, with people bumping into unsuspecting bears.
Gordon takes an easier route, along the coastline. He films a black bear. The bear smells him, and comes to investigate. Gordon says it has poor eyesight. When the bear gets closer and realises it is a human it runs off the other way. Gordon says it’s a really peaceful animal, so misunderstood; and almost all large carnivores are the same. We’re just scared of things that are bigger than us and have big teeth.
Narrator says it has a bad effect on the balance of nature. Show Doug Smith’s eco message again: how the systems were put together over millions of years.
Jasmine takes to the air to try and locate the radio-collared wolf, but there’s too much forest cover.
Meanwhile, Isaac is searching on the ground. Meets with biologist, Bill Gaines, who shows him the recorded passage of the wolf’s movement on a map. She seems to be going back to one site. Says it’s hopefully a ‘rendezvous’ site.
Switch to Doug Smith, who says a ‘rendezvous’ site is like the spokes on a wheel; the wolves will fan out to hunt in the summer and then return to rendezvous.
Switch back to the Great Bear forest, where Chris is hoping wolves will be feeding on salmon. Finds remains of pink salmon and chum fish with brains (full of fat and protein) bitten out: sign of wolf kills. Then he finds wolf scat with salmon teeth in it. He finds a part of the coastline with a lot of bird activity. Calls Gordon up, and Gordon goes up there and sets up a hide. Gordon says wolves have been catching fish like bears for thousands of years.
Narrator says wolves are very adaptable. Doug Smith says they are very intelligent animals, with large brains for their size. When they’re hunting animals up to 10 times bigger, like bison, they have to be smart about it. Wolves only weigh 100 lbs and can get their brains kicked out.
Narrator says a single wolf is one of the most intelligent animals, but when they get together as a pack they can hunt the most formidable prey.
Switch to Isaac, who says a rendezvous site is like a puppy playground; pups stay there, while the adults go out to hunt. Isaac is such an experienced tracker that he can spot the smallest signs.
A new influx of salmon has brought lots of activity around Gordon’s hide: including a seal.
Chris finds a grizzly fishing.
Show greenygrey Cascades, with more rain dampening Gordon’s spirits. Then a wolf arrives. Rusty brown coloured coat, characteristic of the coastal wolves.
The wolf fishes. Only a handful of people have filmed this behaviour. Gordon says it is the fulfilment of a lifetime’s ambition; calls it a handsome, handsome dog. Narrator says there have been reports of wolves hunting seals, snatching seabirds, foraging for mussels, and swimming 7 miles at a stretch. This similar behaviour to humans has brought the two into contact. Gordon says to see them in the wild is in contrast to their human image: we fear them, see them as competition, one of the most interesting and charismatic animals.
Just 90 miles away from one of America’s biggest cities, Isaac thinks he’s found a new pack. Finds an old wolf scat, a bone, and hears movement. Show Seattle and Cascade mountains on map. Narrator says young wolves will strike out on their own, and could be a problem, as it’s only a few miles from farmland, and the locals might not be friendly. Doug Smith says he thinks the Cascades offer good wolf habitat, but it’s whether the locals will allow it.
Narrator says it is one of the most contentious issues in North America, and nowhere more than in Idaho, where 35 wolves were reintroduced in the mid 1990s. With legal protection they have thrived, but now a ban on hunting has been lifted. Jasmine goes to meet an Idaho hunter.
Gordon goes to meet the leader of the Idaho anti-wolf coalition, Ron Gillette, at a rodeo, says it is cowboy country, where attitudes haven’t changed for a century; says Gillette and followers fear wolves will eat their cows and harm their way of life. Gillette says horses and cattle are being lost, it is the most vicious, cruel predator in North America, taking the prey down and sucking the blood out of them as it pumps out. The experiment is over, get rid of them.
Gordon says Gillette’s not talking about reducing wolf numbers, he’s talking about extermination; thought we’d been through that 100 years ago. Doug Smith said wolves do kill livestock, but it tends to be ‘uncommon to rare’ and those wolves will always be dealt with. The wolves were wiped out to set up the ranches, but now that the ranches are there, we are respecting their place. If wolves kill livestock they are dead. That’s the story. Much more complicated is if they are killing elk and deer.
Jasmine meets hunter, Milton Terley (spelling?) in Idaho. There’s a big sign outside his house or a clubhouse (?) saying ‘I Shoot Illegal Aliens! (The Grey Canadian Type). He says he wants to get a wolf today, let’s go hunting. Has an AR15, semi-automatic.
Narrator says Jasmine has spent her time protecting wolves, but could now see one shot in front of her.
Back in Washington state, Isaac has seen nothing all day at the suspected rendezvous site. Then he hears howl of a lone adult wolf. Then pups as well. Says there’s a bunch of wolves in there, and close.
Jasmine is finding it hard to face seeing a beautiful and intelligent animal killed; but here to be open-minded. Milton thinks he sees a wolf, but it’s a deer. Then says it’s the first one he’s seen this year. Jasmine says he should go out with her more often, before asking if it’s because they’re harder to find or if they’re not there. Hunter says hard-nosed hunters say they’re not there.
Narrator says elk and deer hunting is a multi-million dollar industry in Idaho, and if wolves are decimating their numbers whole communities could suffer.
Milton says there is a place for wolves, but only if they are kept in check. Every time he hears a wolf howl it sends shivers down his spine, as it means one animal is dominating another; nature is a little sick, one set of creatures is devouring another set. Jasmine asks if he thinks it’s humanity’s role to keep it in check. He says he wants balance. Jasmine says she can live with that. Milt says there are radicals on both sides who won’t. Says his friends had said she was a radical environmentalist and he shouldn’t meet her.
Narrator says they have found a middle ground where wolves and humans can share the remaining wild spaces.
Doug Smith says the wolf’s efficiency as a killer is overestimated, and most hunts are unsuccessful. What you’ve got is an evolutionary arms race between wolf and prey, with both adapting to each other over thousands of years, and the margin between them down to minutiae; the image of the wolf as a wanton killer wiping out herds is just false. Wolves target weak animals because they are generally easier to catch; healthy animals generally rebuff wolf attacks and the herds grow stronger as a result. Anti-wolf people often care more about values, who is the top predator between human and wolf; who is dominant. People in the middle who want wolves in some places where they can live in peace and not others where they will invite conflict is going to be the most fruitful for solving our wolf issues.
In Washington, Isaac has been camping out for days, but not seen any wolves. But then sees a pup; lot browner than he expected. Another pup arrives, and is greeted by the other; the first puts its jaw on the back of the other’s neck; kind of stroking it as it walks below it.
Isaac says he thinks there are four pups, what is most exciting is not seeing them, but thinking what they represent; seeing them this far south means the wolves are returning to Washington right in front of our eyes. Only question is ‘are we going to let them?’
Narrator says Jasmine has been waiting 20 years to see wolves return to the Cascades. Isaac has told her he’s located the female, but kept the pups as a surprise. Jasmine arrives and watches the film of the wolves howling; says it goes right to her heart, and it’s a sound she wants to continue to hear in these mountains.
Doug Smith says he thinks the pioneer packs have revised their thinking of wolves; they used to think wolves needed wild pristine land to survive, but these are surviving in land that isn’t that wild. Gordon asks what he hopes for wolves in the region in 200 years time? Doug says he’d like to see wolves along a mountain corridor stretching from Canada to Mexico. That’s not to say they’ll be everywhere, people needn’t be fearful, just small amounts of wolves living with little contact with humans, in habitats they can live.
Narrator says Doug’s vision might not be far away. Wolf numbers continue to grow in Washington, with 5 packs now confirmed in the state; and down into Oregon state. And now a wolf has also reached northern California.
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