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WOLF TALES

Observations by Board Member Megan Barker

I walked a few weeks ago up a little canyon east of Salt Lake…my afternoon ramble turning to dusk and then to a darkness soon joined by a half moon casting gentle shadows of conifers, willows, and me. In the still light beginning of my walk, a golden retriever turned back to greet me, then returned to her human up the trail, adding her tracks to the other domestic canids who frequent the canyon. This event, for years ordinary in every way, is now made remarkable by the southward wanderings of Yellowstone wolves. For the first time in my history, and in the history of my father who began visiting this canyon in the 40's, the possibility exists that large canid tracks in northern Utah belong to something other than a domestic dog.

Such a bittersweet return. One sent back to Yellowstone before my ramble, two others shot since. I wonder at the welcome we are giving wolf…have we the courage and wisdom to welcome wolf home?

Once before I witnessed the return of wolf to a long-silent landscape. The year wolves were re-introduced to Yellowstone, I lived and learned and taught at Teton Science School near Kelly, Wyoming. At that time, there was no question that any wild canid track we saw in meadow or forest or creek bottom belonged to fox or coyote, with anything larger attributed to domestic dogs accompanying hikers or skiers. I returned for a visit two years later amid stories of reported wolf-sightings in the valley. Less than a mile from the little cabin I called home for a year, my path intersected that of a wolf. How to explain the feeling of following the snowbound path of a creature whose tracks are as big as my hand?

I have delighted in the sight of wolf pups tumbling and wrestling, and stood in quiet awe at the howling of first one then another and another wolf, until five wolves joined in a chorus all around me in Lamar Valley. These connections with wolf I hold sacred. I believe wolves will be safe in Yellowstone. Of their fate elsewhere, I can not be sure. The young man I spoke with from Pinedale this week is fiercely proud of his grandfather's part in killing the last wolf in that area and believes that wolf's existence should have stopped there, 70 years ago. How to unravel fear and hate that is long entrenched and passed from generation to generation I do not know…perhaps simply raising our voices in welcome can begin to erode that fear. Let us exhibit the wisdom and courage to live with these creatures….to let them again assume their role in this place as we lead the way in learning to better live with our wild neighbors.


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