Lined up …
Lined up …
Any time someone from the Lower 48 goes to Alaska, the instant question that comes up on return is the traveler encountered a wolf.
The answer for me is simply no, and I knew fully well there were very low odds of me seeing a wolf. I live where there are tons of coyotes, and I see one about every six months. They are very good at keeping themselves hidden from people, and from what I’ve read about wild wolves, it is even more true about wolves.
My best chance at seeing a wild wolf was at Denali, but there is a catch to that story.
Denali National Park is roughly the size of Massachusetts. It’s full of moose, Dall sheep, caribou, beaver, and porcupines.
You’d think that place would be full of wolves, but it’s not.
In fact, a place that size really can’t hold as many wolves as it does wolf prey. Because wolves are top predators, they just can’t exist in such large numbers, and that fact is true regardless if you’re talking about wolves in Denali, cheetahs in Namibia, or lions in the Gir Forest.
So even in the best of times, there would always be just a few wolves roaming the park. They would be laid on pretty thinly on the land.
But these are not the best of times for wolves in Denali.
The traditional “buffers” that have been set up near the park that prevented legal wolf hunting and trapping near the park were lifted in 2010, and the wolf population went from 147 wolves in 2007 to 49 wolves in 2015.
49 wolves over a land the size of Massachusetts.
49 is still more than the number of wolves living in actual Massachusetts, which may be 0 wolves. It may not be, though. One was killed in Massachusetts in 2008, and one or two could be lurking somewhere in the Berkshires, where they may mistaken for big coyotes.
But 49 is roughly a third of what the population was nearly a decade ago. My chances of seeing a wolf in Denali were 45 percent in 2010. They were 5 percent in 2015.
One of the best things I did at the park was take a hiking nature tour. My tour guide was very well-informed about wolf issues, and she told us about a wolf following one of her tour groups. There was no fear involved, but when someone in the party pointed out that a wolf was following them, she was certain it was a dog. She was very surprised to see that it was a wolf, and it was close.
The wolf ran off, of course.
But she also told the story of what happened to the East Fork wolf pack. This is the famous wolf pack that Adolph Murie studied. They were the wolves that were featured prominently in The Wolves of Mt. McKinley. This was the pack to which Wags, Murie’s tame wolf belonged.
Right now, the pack exists as only a single female. Her mate was killed on state land near the park entrance. She also had a litter, but I’ve not been able to find out what exactly happened to them. (I was there just a few days after this story came out on Alaska NPR).
I understand that Alaska has to balance interests between outfitters, who want predator control and liberal predator hunting allowances, and the desire of the American people to have relatively intact ecosystems in our national parks.
I get it.
I get that Canis lupus isn’t an endangered species worldwide, and it certainly isn’t an endangered species in Alaska, where the species is still going strong.
But it seems just a little perverse that we cannot maintain those buffers once again. I came thousands of miles to see wilderness where wolves might be.
I am okay with knowing they might be. I don’t have to see them. I just need to know they are there.
We had a small enough tour group that the guide and I got to talk about wolves a bit. She talked about her cocker spaniel and how that dog was far more rugged than she looked. The dog had been on many back country trips, and she wondered how closely related her spaniel was to those wolves.
But still far enough away.
Hello! I would like to congratulate you on the roaring success of Tesla, in particular the Model X. I see them driving around when I’m out walking my dog and I spend a lot of time daydreaming about one day driving one of my own out to the dog park, with my dog’s one ear flapping in the breeze as we race down the road.
Perhaps you might be saying to yourself, “Goodness! What’s keeping you from buying one, then? Aren’t you a veterinarian? I hear they’re rolling in dough!” Crazy, right? I hear that too. It’s a common misquote. What those people meant to say is, “Rolling in debt.” I do know one or two vets who are doing ok, but I think their spouses work in real estate, so there you go.
But we don’t mind, because we love animals. Day after day after day, people come to us for animal related goods and services and ask us, “Don’t you love animals? Because if you did, you would just give me this care for free.” And if we don’t, we are BAD BAD PEOPLE WHO HATE ANIMALS, and that sounds like an awful thing to be. Just check Yelp! You’ll see.
At first, I thought that idea was hogwash, but after so many years of having it repeated to me I thought that maybe I just missed the part of civics lecture where they taught us that no exchange of cash for goods was necessary if the person who has the goods loves animals, because that is just what you’re supposed to do.
So the rule here is, if I really really really want something and you have it and you also love animals, you need to give it to me. I know it sounds nuts, but ten years of experience here can’t be wrong. It’s what the people expect.
Here’s the deal: my car just hit 150K this month and I’m hearing a weird clanking noise that makes me nervous. And yes, I could save up on my own or pick a car in my budget, blah blah blah, but clearly this whole Animal Lover Loophole thing is a widely used shortcut to free stuff, so I figured I would give it a shot before heading down to the used car dealership. I’ll even take the, uh, “cheaper” Model X 60D that just came out, I’m not picky.
I’d hate to see my sad, adorable, one eared dog stuck on the side of the road in this summer heat if I break down. We need reliable transportation befitting his status as Super Awesome Dog. Does Elon Musk like animals? I think we all know what the right thing to do here is.
I’ll be eagerly waiting your response.
Nearly a year after her TTA, Miley is back in action. She’s 8 years old, but she runs and looks like she’s five.
In past week, she’s dispatched a full grown rabbit and this chipmunk.
Golden retrievers never like to get dirty…