Wolf in snow, © David Hornoff

Up Close: Wolf Watching Leaves A Lasting Impression

Dave Hornoff, co-president of National Wolfwatcher coalition.

For Wolf Awareness Week this year, Defenders has invited guest bloggers to offer their perspectives on the importance of wolf conservation. Dave Hornoff is co-president of National Wolfwatcher Coalition and a regular wolf watcher in Yellowstone National Park.

Looking Back

A few years back when I thought my passion for wolves couldn’t be any greater,  I went to Yellowstone National Park and have been a frequent wolf watcher there ever since.  Wolves in Yellowstone serve as wild ambassadors to wolves all over the world; the park is an international showcase for wolf watching, that’s for sure.

My favorite time spent there was probably in February of 2009, and I say that knowing that each and every trip is special. Yet that one trip was truly unforgettable.  I had signed up on a trip with Nathan Varley, a wolf tour operator in Yellowstone, and we were to stay at the Buffalo Ranch in Lamar Valley.  I arrived a few days early and was soon very happy that I did.

The wolf known as 06 leads two other members of the Lamar Canyon Pack on their return from a hunt early this fall.

At Lamar Canyon, I spotted two of the last members of the Druid Peak pack–691F and her sister White Line.  Within seconds the two scattered as a large female wolf known as 06 bounded onto the scene along with two young black wolves,755M and 754M, that are brothers. Amazingly I watched them as 755M and 06 joined in a tie, the canine mating process, that would eventually produce their first litter to the pack now known as the Lamar Canyon Pack. I suggested to Nathan the name for the budding wolf pack with 06 as the leader, and he thought it was a good idea. So with Nathan’s help, I can proudly take some credit for naming this wolf pack of Yellowstone.

That week I also watched 06 take down bull elk totally on her own.  She is the most amazing wolf I have ever watched to this day, and a big reason why I return so often. Spending the -25 degree nights at the Buffalo Ranch that week did nothing but fuel my passion for wolves more than ever.

Looking Ahead

I was also in Yellowstone to watch the Cottonwood Pack that year prior to the 2009 wolf hunt in which the pack was targeted as they roamed outside park boundaries.  That was a very difficult time and the hunt was eventually stopped early. Now, we find the wolf hunt has resumed in the Northern Rockies and it presents us with a difficult challenge once again as 642F from Yellowstone is among the hunting statistics.

I support species being removed from protection under the Endangered Species Act, but with wolves being the only species to be delisted by Congress, it seems to me that we need to pay more attention to sound science than bad politics when talking about wolves.

These wolves are so very valuable to the economy, as a study has shown that wolves alone are responsible for 35 million in revenue annually and nearly double that once the money filters through the local economy. Every dollar spent on wolf watching is a vote to support the conservation of wolves that should not be discounted by our policy makers.

A wolf pup weathers its first snow storm this April in Yellowstone.

I believe that with Defenders’ programs to promote nonlethal measures to reduce conflict, along with furthering education throughout the country, people and wolves can coexist peacefully.  There is a place for all species on this planet, and we as humans need to become more involved and take responsibility for our future, as well as the future of our wildlife and its habitat.

In part, thanks to my Yellowstone experiences, I am now more involved than ever as the Co-President of National Wolfwatcher Coalition, (www.wolfwatcher.org) a non-profit organization made up of many dedicated people across the country. We work closely with Defenders of Wildlife and other groups promoting education and activism, and our primary interest is that of wolves throughout the country.

So look for me in Yellowstone.  I love watching wolves from dusk to dawn, and your company is most welcome. I believe in these three words: understand, love, protect.

Dave Hornoff

Adopt a Wolf NowGive a Gift that Helps Save Wolves!

Wolf adoptions are a great way to share your appreciation for these magnificent American icons while helping to support Defenders’ work on their behalf.

Visit our Wildlife Adoption Center to adopt a wolf today!