Yellowstone wolf pack encircles two photographers . . . . ."wild and beautiful"

Paradise Valley wildlife photographer Alan Sachanowski has written a very interesting and timely story about a recent experience he and another photographer had in Hayden Valley close up with the Gibbon wolf pack . . . Ralph Maughan

By Alan Sachanowski.

I have read with interest stories recently about individuals who have felt threatened by wolves in the back country. Forest Service employees being evacuated from a wilderness area because of a perceived threat, an armed bow hunter claiming to have been trapped in his tent for hours, and of course the hunter who inadvertently shot his guide a couple years ago in Paradise Valley Montana, because he mistook him for wolves that were “coming to get him”.  The list of stories goes on. I thought that, perhaps, your readers might be interested in reading another “close encounter” type story. The primary difference between this story and many others is perception–the realization that wolves are not the nearly supernatural devils of our childhood fables; nor are they angels. They are merely highly intelligent, extremely curious, members of the wildlife community.

A few days before the interior roads in Yellowstone National Park were to close for the season, a friend and I decided to take a hike in the southern part of Hayden Valley.  We climbed to the top of a hill about a quarter of a mile from the road and scanned the distant meadows, sage and timber.  Way off in the distance we saw a herd of about twenty or thirty bison and decided to walk in that general direction.  It wasn’t especially cold, perhaps 25 or thirty degrees; and it was alternately snowing lightly and sleeting.

We got out about two miles when we stopped while my friend scanned the tree line, which was still 3/4 mile away, with binoculars. He handed them to me with one word: “Wolves”. I took the binoculars and looked where he indicated. There, on a low hill about three hundred yards away, were three or four wolves sniffing around. My friend, who has photographed wolves extensively both here and in Alaska, suggested that we sit down in the sage. Perhaps, he thought, it might be possible to get a long distance photograph. I continued to watch them through the binoculars as more wolves appeared from the other side of the hill.

Now there were nine, then eleven. They lined up on the hill and were all looking in our direction.

A few weeks earlier, while hiking with another friend in the Pelican Valley, we had come upon five members of the Mollie’s Pack. These wolves had bolted into the timber the moment that we topped the rise, and inadvertently sky-lined ourselves. The current wolves, however, were not running away. In fact, they had begun walking in our direction.

As I understand it, wolves have pretty good eyesight for distinguishing movement; but they rely much more heavily on their sense of smell for identification purposes. We were down-wind and had dropped out of sight into the sage. All that they had seen was something move and then drop to the ground. Could have been an animal bedding down, could have been an injured or dying animal.

Led by a large black and a gray (the alphas?) they began running toward us. I was amazed at how quickly they closed the distance. They split and surrounded us, circling, checking us out. Wewatched at eye level, the muscles rolling beneath their fur as they ran by. Nothing I have ever experienced comes close to how wild and beautiful these wolves were as they ran past so close that I felt that I could reach out and touch them. I might add that while we were both carrying bear spray, neither one of us felt compelled to even so much as loosen our holsters….Because Neither One of Us Ever Felt Threatened.

The wolves stopped and gathered about a hundred or a hundred and fifty feet beyond us. They were now down-wind, and noses went to the air. They were checking our ID. Now that they knew for sure that we were people, they started moving away immediately…..down the valley.

A few of them stopped once or twice to look back, as if to see if we were trying to follow. My friend commented as we were leaving that people who think that truly wild, non habituated wolves are a danger to people simply do not understand wolves. Wolves have a natural aversion to people. We have never been food, we have never represented food.

The real danger, he said, is the same as with any wildlife. Any animal, from a pika to a bison, can be dangerous if habituated to people; approached too closely, fed etc. All wolves need is the freedom to be free.

As we hiked out, we could hear the wolves howling from the trees down the valley….they possibly had gotten separated and the alphas were calling them together. From the top of a hill more than a mile away, we could see them in a long line returning to the valley…..maybe to continue their bison hunt?

My advice to anyone who ever finds themselves in a situation where they feel, for whatever reason, a perceived threat from wolves, would be to leave no doubt as to your identity. Don’t sit in a tent dressed in “no-scent” or “deer-scent” clothing banging on the walls like an elk in death throes. Get out, stand up tall and scream, “I’m a human being!!” My guess is that any wolves in the area will beat a hasty retreat!

The wolf pack. Copyright Alan Sachanowski


Copyright Alan Sacharnowski







  1. Dana Avatar

    what a incredible experience, thank you for sharing it with us

  2. Buffaloed Avatar

    I’ve had similar experiences but with only one or two wolves at a time. Once they realize that I am a human they make a retreat even though I am no threat to them. I have even unintentionally surprised wolves and once they figure out that I am around they leave. The only time I have ever had a wolf approach me was when I howled and it thought I was another wolf. Same thing, it left as soon as it realized I was a human.

    I have had at least four experiences that happened when it was dark or nearly dark. Never have I felt threatened while in close proximity to wolves. In fact it is very invigorating especially when they are howling and you are standing alone, at night, without artificial light, and they are withing 300 yards and on both sides of you.

  3. Bob caesar Avatar
    Bob caesar

    You are blessed to experience suich a thing, as we are to have you relate it to us!

    Thanks so much!


  4. Rusty Williams Avatar
    Rusty Williams

    I too had an encounter with a single wolf in Pelican Valley and it made my 2 week hiking trip. I was solo hiking and had a distant companion for about 5 miles of the hike with the wolf moving in the same direction I was. The wolf would have quickly out distanced me if it had not stopped to howl every 10 minutes or so. I was much more weary of the bison.

  5. Don George Avatar
    Don George

    Have had many experiences with wolves in my lifetime both in the wild and working with the Endangered Species Foundation.

    Would have given anything to have been with you guys.
    What a great experience.

    Isn’t it great to see them back in YNP!!!

  6. be Avatar


  7. thehendricksreport Avatar

    An awesome experience and story! How could anyone want to erradicate these wonderful animals? They harm no one!

  8. Blaine Houberg Avatar
    Blaine Houberg

    The ultimate definition of a wild experience. Great new format Ralph. Thanks

  9. Keri Davis Avatar
    Keri Davis

    How inspiring and wonderful it is to read a story where wolves are not maligned; unfortunately, all we seem to hear about are those in which are “perceived” as threats, and it is fundamentally important for people to realize what magnificent animals they really are and that people should be able to enjoy these symbols of the wild and allow them their rightful place in it.

  10. Robert Hoskins Avatar

    Perhaps Ralph could pull together and publish a compendium of stories such as this to reflect what’s actual about wolf encounters, rather than what’s ideological. I myself have often seen wolves in the backcountry, although usually what I see is the backside of a wolf plunging into the trees or some other cover since the wolf/wolves saw me first and was determined to avoid an encounter. Face to face encounters at any distance in the backcountry are rare and treasured. But I would much prefer to see wolves in the backcountry than in the Lamar, lined up with hundreds of other people along the road. Something about the latter strikes me as just not right. It’s hard enough to work against the “zoo” image of Yellowstone without the zoo atmosphere along the road..

  11. Bob caesar Avatar
    Bob caesar

    Great idea Robert! Ralph, get on that. After all, you’ve probably drained your brain with books – this would be a snap! And sell a zillion. Include all kinds of North American wildlife experiences….. Go fer it!

  12. Jo Middleton Avatar
    Jo Middleton

    Great Story. I will share it with my family and friends. What a wonderful experience! Thank you for sharing with us.
    Thank you for your endless work Ralph..

  13. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thanks for the idea. It might be an opportunatey for a lot of people who would like to publish.

  14. Rick Hammel Avatar
    Rick Hammel

    The photos are great. A little less radius in the unsharpen mask would be good. But the story was just fabulous and what a photo op!

  15. Patti Ahern Avatar
    Patti Ahern

    Astounding! An eloquent story – thank you for sharing!

  16. Melissa Barton Avatar

    I think that would be a great anthology. I’ve seen a few anthologies of writing about wolves (usually reflections of well-known writers and poets), but never any of just ordinary people writing about wolf encounters. I think there’s room for that.

  17. dcookie Avatar

    One person is surrounded by wolves and goes into absolute panic. Another is surrounded by wolves and goes into ecstacy. People and their emotions. Somewhere snow is falling and wolves are just being themselves. Ravens are tagging along. Elk are watching intently. Willows are dormant and bears are sleeping. It brings me great comfort to know that people managed to just get out of the way. Now it is possible to experience the full spectrum of wilderness simply as it is, which is not simple. It’s complex, and rich and fascinating. Thank you for posting and allowing us all to appreciate and marvel.

  18. hallowedspace Avatar

    That was great. And I learned something new today. Thank you for educating and inspiring us.

  19. Leslie Smith Avatar
    Leslie Smith

    My husband and I have hiked hundreds of miles in the Yellowstone backcountry. We have encountered wolves on many of those trips. Our experience has been mixed as to their response, depending on how close we were and, I feel, the individual personality of the wolves. We have had wolves turn and lope away. We have also spotted wolves who clearly knew we were in the area, who have kept a wary eye on us but continued to fp about the business of being a wolf. I know all lone wolves we have seen defintely took off at the sight of us. Two or more wolves seemed more willing to linger in the area.

    Never once did we feel remotely threatened by the wolves we saw.

  20. sasha Avatar

    Amazing and beautifully written, thank you for this gem of an adventure.

  21. Rob Avatar

    dcookie | November 29th, 2006 at 1:48 pm

    Somewhere snow is falling and wolves are just being themselves. Ravens are tagging along. Elk are watching intently. Willows are dormant and bears are sleeping. It brings me great comfort to know that people managed to just get out of the way.

    sounds like some more warm fuzzy hype….the truth is elk are running for their lives while the guts of calves are being picked at by ravens….I would much rather listen to elk bugle than hear a dog howl….something becoming more rare every year as wolves are honing in to the dinner bell sound of the majestic bull elk……

  22. thehendricksreport Avatar

    Hey guys, if you want to post your “animal stories” I will be more than happy to provide space for them on my blog. This is just the kind of thing I am looking for. I think this is a great idea! I will post a heading on my blog: Rare Wilderness Encounters–this will go right along with my Blog titled “The Adventurist”. I am personally looking for any kind of adventure stories. Check out my blog at
    or just click on my name above. I will have the section ready in a few minutes. Hopefully this will satisy a little need percieved here. Thank-you very much.

    J. Alan Hendricks, Editor, “The Adventurist”

  23. Lynne Avatar

    You are so lucky, someday I will see a wolf in the wild and hear their beautiful howls. What a wonderful article this is.

  24. Linda Hoydic Avatar
    Linda Hoydic

    What an awesome opportunity. I can only dream for that to happen on one of our annual trips to Yellowstone. We come every year for the beautiful scenery and the tremendous adventure of wildlife watching. We have been lucky to see the wolves, hear them howl, feed on a carcass, but all from a distance. I can only imagine how wonderful it would be to see them running toward and around me. Just wonderful and thanks so much for sharing.

  25. Katie Avatar

    Well narrated story with a point well made and accompanied by great photos…

  26. Jan Avatar

    Thank you for sharing your experience! Makes me want to “brave” the snow and cold (I live in Florida) to see these beautiful animals again. Hoping to get back to Yellowstone again in 2007….

  27. Tim Z. Avatar
    Tim Z.

    This is typically left out when you here people tell this story. Hopefully this is not allowed to happen in Yellowstone.

    “Habituation and food conditioning play major roles with the wolf attacks in Algonquin Provincial Park. The wolf that attacked Zachariah had frequented campsites and taken human items, it had clearly lost a fear of humans. Some wolf biologists felt that the wolf might have been interested only in the sleeping bag. This could have been the case to begin with-however, such an explanation falters at the point the wolf took Zachariah’s head in its mouth. As wolf biologists Pat Tucker and Diane Boyd pointed out, “Wolves olfactory senses are beyond our imagining. Only a scent-impaired wolf would fail to differentiate between a sleeping bag from a human.” Initially, the wolf may have been attracted by the sleeping bag and, grabbing for it, mistakenly got a hold of Zachariah and, instead of running away, decided to see what happened next. This seems to be a case of habituation giving rise to experimentation.
    In October 1997, Tracy Delventhal (Zachariah’s mother), wrote, “Algonquin officials refuse to put limits on the number of folks that are using the interior and to educate and monitor them. As a result, the wolves’ environment has been seriously disturbed.
    It is our feeling that more attacks will occur unless these things are changed. Educating our communities about the beauty and importance of wolves is not enough. We must take responsibility for the pressure we are putting on them AND accept that when a creature’s environment is altered, behavior will change. We are concerned that all the hype on “wonderful and wild wolves” lulls us into the belief that we are safe with them. It is our hope that wolves will flourish in the wilds of the world. But with the anti-wolf sentiment that already exists, other attacks will surely convince people that wolves need to be done away with.”

  28. Blaine Houberg Avatar

    Additional to Tim’s comments…
    “The apparantly healthy male wolf was eventually shot and the contents of it’s stomach revealed approximately 1kg of meat, beans, string and labels indicating that it had scavenged human garbage”
    Link to full story attached

  29. Tim Z. Avatar
    Tim Z.

    Anoother thought on this:

    “The people who leave garbage lying around or tempt a wolf with handouts would, if justice truly existed, be the ones dragged from their sleeping bags. But food conditioning takes time and, unfortunately, the ignorant or selfish people who initiate and encourage it aren’t the ones stitched back together by a doctor. Instead, the innocent pay- the animal ends up dead and people like Zachariah are injured.”

  30. JEFF EMPEY Avatar

    Puppy love. I am glad you posted this as it paints the stark and and real danger between a wild aniamal that becomes habituated to humans and ones that are not, as illustrated by the original story in this post. I remember as a kid going to Yellowstone and the thing to do was to feed the bears bread. There would be lines of cars for hundreds of yards with people feeding bears, including myself, out of there car windows and of course the inevitable idiot who would get out so the family could have a picture with the bears. The rest, as they say, is history. That is exactly why I personely am concerned with the amount of human contact that is happening in the park with wolves. Idaho wolf populations are not exposed to any where near the human presence and probably will not have near the issues with human habitation. The thing that we all need to remember is that wild aniamals are , well, wild, not the Disney Land portrayal of aniamals that live in little houses in the woods with curtains on the windows and have porridge for breakfast.

  31. Alan Sachanowski Avatar
    Alan Sachanowski

    There are five million victims of dog bites in the United States annually. Fifteen to twenty people die. One thousand people seek medical attention DAILY. Most victims are children, over half of whom are bitten in the face.
    Yet we have to go back ten years to find a corresponding story involving a wolf. The Algonquin story merely serves to emphasize what I stated above: the importance of not allowing wolves, or any other wildlife, to become habituated; and the importance of making certain that wolves and other wildlife know who and what you are. Howling at them probably doesn’t accomplish that. Watching rutting elk in the National Park from a distance is normally pretty safe, however I wouldn’t suggest bugling at them. Both of which are illegal in Yellowstone.
    Will someone eventually be bitten by a wolf in the Northern Rockies? Probably. I understand that people have already been seen feeding wolves in the park. A few individual habituated wolves are probably inevitable. My narrative was not meant to imply that wolves are the only species of mammal on the planet that has never, and never will, injure someone. Down through the years either myself or someone I’ve known or heard about have been injured by: dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, coyotes, elk, snakes, bees, a parakeet, squirrel, , and etc., etc.
    The only thing that is remarkable about a wolf bite is how far someone has to dig, how far back they have to go, to find one.
    What’s remarkable is how rare they are.

  32. Buffaloed Avatar

    I, along with two other friends, were once charged by a cow elk when I was about 14 near the campground at Mammoth. It could have ended very badly but none of us were injured. It was early summer time and we were walking back from the hot springs where we saw skinny dippers ;-). I assume that she had a calf hidden somewhere in the sagebrush nearby. She followed us for a distance until we stopped to see what was up. She then lunged at us, we screamed like little girls and ran in 3 different directions.

    I’ve also had instances where I was very uncomfortable around moose. While I was guiding a group of fly fishermen in central Idaho I told them that once we got around the corner there would be a moose. Sure enough, there she was standing in the lake nearby. I then noticed that there was another smaller moose on the hillside about 10 yards away. I made it very clear to my guests that we should make a hasty retreat. Nothing happened but I know I made the right decision.

    Another instance occured while hiking alone into a small, barren, lake. On the way out after finding that it held no fish, I noticed mountain lion tracks over my own. I never saw it but it gave me pause.

    I’ve also startled a sow and cub black bears while doing spawning surveys for chinook salmon. After they ran away, my survey partner calmly said “Well….. They ran in the preferred direction”. I was a little bit shaken but I have had no unexpected encounters in the many years since.

    On that same survey I found a carcass of a female salmon near a log jam. I was suprised to notice that she looked very freshly killed and her eggs were still moist and oozing out of her opened body. When I reached down into the log jam to retrieve her I heard a terrible growl from within the logs. I never got her measurements and I don’t know what it could have been. The only thing I could think of was the possibility that it was an otter, fishcer, or wolverine.

    That’s pretty much the extent of my uncomfortable experiences with wildlife other than being startled while running out of my house to get in my car on a hot summer day when a deer that had been laying under my house on stilts to get out of the heat jumped up and ran right by me.

  33. Amanda Avatar

    What I wouldn’t give to have been seated in that sage, too! A once in a lifetime experience I imagine…

    I would definitely pay for a book compiling stories like these!

  34. monty d wilson Avatar

    For those who do a lot of hiking in the back country there are occasional close encounters; in Yellowstone, I have had two close grizzly bear contacts and an irate cow moose–who had just dropped a calf–tried to kick me in the head & bite my shoulder. In all three instances, it was my fault & I take no pride in disturbing wildlife but my love of the wild comples me to continue hiking. And as there are more of us, these “close encounters” will continue to increase. I support the Park Service’s “Bear Closure Areas” as a way to minimize wildlife disturbance.

    In terms of Puppy Love’s, “Another Cute Story” who sarcastically implies that love of apex predators is misplaced. Yes, agreed that it must be terrible to have a wolf bite one in the face. But in addition to wolves, there are bears & mountain lions & buffalo & moose & snakes & domestic livestock & pets & cars & trains & planes & sports & humans–who also kill humans. What are we to do?

  35. Kim Avatar

    if yo dont like the willderness, or are afraid of the creatures that are there,, move to florida,, let one of the many perverts, molesters, even the teachers!! who frequent the state take your kid from there playground or school with parents and guards present nearby,,, rape, mutlilate and leave em in a ditch,,,,,,,,i think if you read all the reports of wolves and bears doing damge to people,, you will find humans are much more predatory for the helpless and weak,,,,look at the entracne board at walmart,,, see all the lost and missing kids,,,

    and your are worried about the being attacked when camping,,,at least an animal is hungry and trying to survive,, not horny and just trying to get off,,,re think your concerns,,,

  36. Jim Avatar

    After reading the intial post I was really angry and wanted to respond but I guess I didn’t because I didn’t want to be the jerk here and spoil the party, but…
    alan and his friend should be fined for harassing the park’s wildlife and banned from the park. They acted deliberately to attract the wolves to them. what they did is not different than if they howled or lured them in with food. what they did is stupid and reckless, and not something done by people who claim to like wolves. If they truly liked wolves they would have stayed standing and in plain view so they could be recognized as humans, and watched through their scopes. There wouldn’t have been anything wrong with that because it was, until that point, a chance encounter. Instead they hid and acted like prey just so they could get close up photos.
    A great experience it would be to have a pack of wild wolves run past that close, but not something that should be encouraged. I don’t care that they like wolves or that they didn’t feel threatened. They are no different than the bowhunter in ID from the other tag. They are no friends to wolves.
    What if a pup or yearling was the fastest wolf in the pack and made it to them first and had no adult to lead them? Young wolves are known to get away from the pack in a chase and get in trouble for it. All that is needed is one wolf to even brush by these guys and the whole pack gets killed.
    A “fake” real wildlife experience and as far as I am concerned it will have an asterik next to it, because it doesn’t count as a real wildlife experience. Go to a zoo, or a captive facility, or find someone who has a wolf as a pet (another group of people who claim to like wolves but actually hate them) if you a close up. I had one at WERC in 1997 (through a fence) and will never forget what it is like to look into the eyes of a wolf from a foot away.
    Alan, if you are reading this, you are an asshole.

    You have every right to condemn someone’s actions if you think they were inappropriate, but on this forum we don’t call people “asshole,” or anything like that. It adds heat with no light whatsoever. Don’t do it again. Ralph Maughan

  37. Jim Avatar

    Hi Blaine,

    Glad to see some people from the old WJAC forum are still around.

  38. thehendricksreport Avatar

    Wow, has this discussion changed. Right now, I am trying to sort through a few feelings. First off Ralph, thanks for posting the moderation on the post above. As we can all see and attest to, the “Wolf” issue is far from being one-sided. I think we all agree that these are truly magnificent animals and worthy of what is being done to help them, but the general publics view of this creature has been stemmied by old tales and a general lack of knowledge.

    In a way, I also agree with Jim that putting yourself in a “dangerous” position is kind of reckless. Yet, if EXPERIENCED people do not do this, the magnificence of these creatures will be lost on general lack of knowledge and education.

    Look at Steve Irwin for a second. He always pushed the boundaries with his animal antics, but for this reason alone, look at how many people he brought in to conservation and how many people wanted to know more about what he done. Steve was great in front of the camera, but the creatures ALWAYS took center stage.

    I am in no way saying Alan is like Steve Irwin, but Alan was with someone very experienced in this area. They knew what they were doing. I think with experience in anything, the danger level drops a little bit. Without these kind of encounters how is anyone going to hear about how gracious and semmingly gentle these creatures are for the most part? Why would someone want to help strength a population that they feared? They wouldn’t.

    Steve Irwin still died from his actions. He was out of his element. That is key. Stay with what you know, and don’t put yourself in a precarious position, especially if you are a novice. Any animal can be dangerous if you don’t know about what you have. Always take precautions to protect yourself and have an “escape” route.

    Jim, I agreed with part of what you had to say, but calling someone names just because they don’t believe as you do is is ludicrous. Your point will be lost in the harshness of your words. Remember that good communication can lead to change. Bad communication will lead to people not caring.

  39. Steve Avatar

    Re-reading Alan’s account, I can’t find what he did — other than pique the wolves’ curiousity with his mere presence — to “attract” the wolves to hiis position. ??

    But, Jim may have a point. Eleven wolves? Some of them must be youngsters. Some will disperse, maybe to places outside YNP. Teaching them that people are inconsequential is potentially fatal (to the wolf).

    The more they’re habituated (and I’m using that term in the strict behavioral sense of being used to something and neither fleeing nor approaching it) to people, the more they expose themselves to risk. They may also be more likely to hang around places with livestock, since the presence of people won’t be any deterrent to them.. The more wolves encounter livestock, the higher the likelihood they’ll eventually test them as prey.

    I’m not suggesting that park visitors (illegally) undertake their own aversive conditioning program. Rather, I’m suggesting a little mindfulness about what we’re “teaching” wolves in YNP, and what happens when wolves carry those lessons with them to places that aren’t so friendly.

    And, maybe it’s time to think about “Wolf Management Areas” in addition to the highly sucessful Bear Management Areas YNP implemented in the 1980s. These are places where access by people is either limited (eg, no off-trail travel) or forbidden. The idea was to give bears some places where they wouldn’t be bumping into people, as well as to protect people from bumping into bears.

    Some potentail “WMAs” are already covered by BMAs (eg, Agate Pack), but maybe there ought to be some WMAs in Hayden Valley. If you love em, leave em alone. I’m sure ethical and well-equipped photographers would agree.

  40. mary Avatar

    I had an up close and personal with a wolf at Norris in July,2003. The wolf walked right in front of me on a pathway and gave me a long look before moving on. At no time did I feel threatened. It was an awesome experience that I will long remember.

  41. Jim Avatar

    Steve, Alan’s friend suggested that they drop down into the sage under the guise of getting a long range photograph. Alan, by his own account, says that the wolves just saw something drop down, “could have been an animal lying down, could have been a wounded animal.” He knew beforehand that wolves might regard their behavior in this way, yet they did it anyway. I can think of no other reason why these two acted like prey other than to draw the wolves into them.

    I lived on a ranch north of the park one summer, and that summer some of the hands dragged a dead cow into a clearing and left it there hoping to attract grizzlies. It worked and they watched bears feed off this carcass. No different than what Alan and his friend did. Yellowstone is not a photography studio.

    I did not call him names because I disagree with him. What he did was wrong.

  42. Alan Sachanowski Avatar
    Alan Sachanowski

    Allow me to clarify. Since neither myself nor my companion had ever seen this type of response in wolves before, there was no way that we could have anticipated it. Our thought processes regarding why they did what they did came later, on the hike out. Our intention in sitting down was to avoid disturbing animals that were still at least three hundred yards away, to back away relatively unnoticed, and to possibly get a long distance photograph of the wolves on the hill. In that order of priority. Had they continued to walk toward us we would have gotten up and backed away, but what happened happened in a matter of seconds, and was over in a matter of seconds.

    I am well aware that there are unethical photographers who visit Yellowstone. I have spoken about them with park rangers as well as with other photographers. Unfortunately, even though I truly believe that they are in the minority, they tend to give us all a bad name. As for myself, and those that I attempt to align myself with, the photograph is NEVER the top priority. Nor is it even secondary. The welfare and safety of the subject, as well as my own safety, are. I can’t tell you how many photographic opportunities I have passed up because of these concerns. In the back country, when an animal starts paying attention to you rather than to what it was doing, it’s time to leave. Along the road, when a bear jam is so large that the bear seems stressed or is having trouble crossing the road, I won’t stop. I don’t care how good the photo ops are.

    Regarding “wolf closure (management) areas”, I would absolutely support closing certain areas where wolf activity is known to be occurring. I believe that the original EIS specifically prohibits such closures, however, except around den sites. Ralph probably knows more about that than I. Choosing what areas to close would also be very difficult, I would think. The entire Lamar Valley seems like a logical, though probably not very popular, first choice.

  43. Donna Avatar

    I have known Alan for over 15 years. He has photographed wildlife in YNP for +25 years. He has the utmost respect for all wildlife and was not “exploting them in any way. As a result of his knowledge and respect for the natural actions of wildlife, he has introduced many people to them. He has consistently refused to invade animal territories. And if you think that viewing any animal in a zoo compares with careful observations in the wild, you might as well watch a movie with trained bears.

  44. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Thanks for replying on this, and I think your response serves as a good example why folks should not call other folks names in a forum like this–the person you disagree might in fact be quite different than you first think.

  45. eriena o'reilly Avatar
    eriena o’reilly

    I live in Prince Edward Island,Can. A few years ago I was staying at my mother’s trailer about forty-five kilometers east of Charlottetown,and was awakened out of a deep sleep by the howling of wolves. The wolves sounded like they were on the deck,but when I went to see them their mournful cries were from Boughton Island. I have never forgotten that beautiful sound,you are so luckey to come so close to such a amasing creature.


  46. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Comments are now closed on this thread


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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