The Current

How O-Six became Yellowstone's 'most beloved' wolf

Author Nate Blakeslee looks at how the life of a famous Yellowstone wolf named O-Six provides a poignant insight into the struggle for survival of wolves in the U.S.

Every hunter that kills a wolf ends a wonderous adventure, says author

The Wolf author Nate Blakeslee says every hunter that kills a wolf ends a wonderous adventure. (Penguin Random House Canada)

Originally aired on November 28, 2017.

Read Story Transcript

When Alberta grey wolves were introduced into Yellowstone National Park in 1995, not everyone who lived around the park howled with delight. 

Wolves had been absent from the area since they were killed by hunters in the 1920s.

"Because so much of that land is controlled by the federal government, you see this us versus them, this local control versus intrusive federal bureaucrats — at least that is how it is cast in the West," says Nate Blakeslee, author of The Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West.

"The ranching industry is so powerful there, the hunting industry is so powerful there, all those state legislatures were largely opposed to reintroduction, even though a number of people there were very excited about it," Blakeslee tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

While wolf experts initially thought the wolves would be pretty invisible to humans, living deep in the park,  some of the packs lived in open areas easily watched by nature enthusiasts.

She was such an accomplished hunter.- Nate Blakeslee

And of those wolves, none was more loved or photographed than an alpha female called O-Six, who lived and hunted close to humans.

"She was a grey wolf. She had uncommonly attractive facial markings, sort of this owl-like mask around her eyes," says Blakeslee.

"She was such an accomplished hunter."

The wolves of Yellowstone were free to hunt and roam the area safe from hunters until 2012 when they were removed from the endangered species list.  

Any wolf that left the safe confines of the park itself became a potential target for hunters. 

"'O-Six sadly did leave the park during that first legal hunting season," Blakeslee says.

"Who could have foreseen that one of the first wolves to be shot during Wyoming's first legal hunting seasons in generations would be the park's most beloved animal?"

What is the value of one wolf's life?- Nate Blakeslee

After she was shot, the rest of the wolf pack came out of the woods and circled their fallen leader. 

And then they began to howl. 

"What is the value of one wolf's life?" Blakeslee asks. 

"If every wolf leads this wonderful adventure story as O-Six did, if every wolf's life is like that, and every wolf killed by a  hunter ends such an amazing story, does it force us to reevaluate how we think about those policy goals and does it force us to go back again and take a look at what our values are in that process?"

Listen to the full conversation near the top of this page.


This segment was produced by The Current's Howard Goldenthal.

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