2012 ended on a tragic note for Yellowstone. A hunter shot and killed 832F outside of the protected area. Also known as ’06, 832F was a female alpha wolf, part of the Lamar Canyon pack. The gorgeous wolf was Yellowstone’s mascot, a fan-favorite loved by both scientists and patrons. A little bit of Yellowstone died alongside 832F.
Enthusiastic people from all corners of the globe flocked to Yellowstone to see Yellowstone’s wolves, 832F and the Lamar Canyon pack. Through the she wolf and her pack, many thousands of people bore witness to true wolf behavior, an often unseen and transcendent side of nature. It is an understatement to say that 832F merely educated us. She and her family lifted up our spirits, made us connect with the wild world and its creatures. She gave a face to the faceless and showed us another side of “the big bad wolf”: providing for her family, loyalty, reliability, wise leadership, gentleness and playfulness. Then one day all that was cruelly stifled. Trophy hunting is still alive and well in the “civilized” West and on that day it coldly claimed “our 06”.
This tragedy and all the rhetoric flying back and forth since then reminds me of famous early environmentalist Aldo Leopold’s story “Thinking like a Mountain”:
“…In those days we had never heard of passing up a chance to kill a wolf. In a second we were pumping lead into the pack, but with more excitement than accuracy: how to aim a steep downhill shot is always confusing. When our rifles were empty, the old wolf was down, and a pup was dragging a leg into impassable slide-rocks.
We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes – something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view…”
Killing predators such as wolves as a control measure to stabilize prey populations or to prevent livestock losses is controversial, the science behind it sometimes inconclusive. Humans often take it upon themselves to tell nature how to balance her web of life but usually we are wrong! On a more philosophical level, connecting to wild animals and recovering our own wild ancestry and soul is an important step for many people around the world as humanity becomes more and more detached from its evolutionary history, that which formed us and made us who we are.
There is no doubt that wolf 832F helped many people reconnect with that part within themselves. She and her family reminded all of us that there is something deeper at work in the vivacious world. Some call it God; others call it the spirit of nature. Regardless, it is a wondrous feeling and sometimes it makes enough of a ruckus that we take notice. 832F was that heart ruckus and we will miss her greatly.
The world will miss her greatly. She was, and still is, Yellowstone.
*Image courtesy of Yellowstone National Park Service