Land of the Lost Wolves

"Guys! I found one!"

By Jen Lavery

Land of the Lost Wolves is a two-part documentary series focusing on attempts to track a pioneering wolf pack.

Before European settlers arrived in the United States and introduced everything moving to the shouty end of the shotgun, wolves reigned supreme, with territories spanning North America. The ‘Lookout’ pack is returning to the Cascade Mountains in Washington State from Canada, where the species retreated after over a million were killed by their new neighbours.

These intrepid wolves are being tracked by an equally intrepid team who are faced with survival in Arctic-like conditions: cameraman Gordon, biologist Jasmine and wolf-tracker Isaac.

While wolf-tracking Isaac’s assertion of ‘BAM! That’s a wolf-track!’ is just begging to be catchphrased, the difficulty in finding many obvious traces of the pack makes this all too unlikely.

See, the thing about wolves is, you don’t get this high on the the food chain by hanging about. Wolves easily travel 50 miles a day, can smell you a mile away and hear you from further.

Luckily, our group have come armed with a variety of wolf-tracking devices, ranging from 50 motion-sensing cameras to ROBO-WOLF, a build-it-yourself electronic wolf.

Its head moves! It howls (well, the megaphone rigged to the tree behind it does)! It even wags its tail! ALL HAIL ROBO-WOLF.

We also see our team utilise the tried-and-tested, but less high-tech, method of finding something the wolves have eaten half of, hiding near it, then having a big old wait. Unfortunately, the wolves aren’t biting.

But if they seem overly wary it shouldn’t come as a surprise:  some locals are very unhappy about their reintroduction.

None less so than Ron Gillette, who we first meet in the opening of the programme. This entirely reasonable man advocates the ‘anything goes’ policy to culling wolves, including dynamite and AR 15’s – an assault rifle capable of shooting 800 rounds per minute.

He tells us: ‘If the devil had an animal, it would be the Canadian wolf.’

Clearly all other wolf variations belong to Jesus.

When we meet him again later, Ron shows us some pictures of elks that have been attacked by wolves, asking us if we can imagine how much pain the animal suffered before it died.

Now, before we all get our hankies out and have a good cry along with our nice new friend Ron, it’s worth pointing out why he wants to save the elk from wolves. Ron dreams of ‘viable and visible’ herds wandering the plains without a wolf-care in the world… so he and his hunter friends can kill them instead.

Without wolves around, deer and elk populations run rampant, eating too much of the vegetation depended on by other creatures. And though the lovely Ron dismisses the idea that wolves are needed to balance out the ecosystem as ‘BS’ and ‘a bunch of baloney’, the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park has produced ‘astonishing’ results for the smaller animals and plant life.

While the team does eventually get to see two wolves close up, the excitement is short-lived. These are two male wolves, and the alpha seems to be in mourning, suggesting the female has met with misfortune. When the body of a wolf minus its head, feet and skin shows up, it’s clear some of the locals have been partaking in illegal hunting.

But just when all seems lost, more wolves begin to show up in different parts of the mountains. Will wolves some day roam again from Washington State to California? Tune in next week to see how they’re getting on.

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Land of the Lost Wolves is on Thursdays, 9pm, BBC1. You can catch up on iPlayer here

Follow Jen on Twitter: @Jenlavery

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About Hilary Wardle
Hilary is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes for a wide range of websites, magazines and newspapers, including Buzzfeed, MSN, The Poke, Chortle, the Guardian and the Independent. She specialises in arts and entertainment, comedy, video games and viral content. Contact her at Hilary3@gmail.com.

3 Responses to Land of the Lost Wolves

  1. stuwho says:

    Good show … looking forward to the rest

    I’ve been a fan of Gordon’s work since he did the superb doco on Glasgow’s Southside foxes … the orange furry ones that eat fish suppers … with four legs.

    Good review, Jen.

  2. Rick says:

    As far as I’m concerned there should be an open season on people like Ron Gillette,wonder how he’d like it.

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