A thin, scraggly-coated wolf struggles for life, the lone lone survivor of the most-watched of the wolf packs that have grown up in Yellowstone National Park since the reintroduction of wolves there 15 years ago. About 750 miles away in California, a young bachelor wolverine wanders around hunting for a female wolverine to mate with — but it's a fruitless search, because the nearest ones are hundreds of miles away. And back in the direction from which he came.
These two stories that cropped up in the last few days can't help but tug at your heartstrings if you're even a little bit human. I mean, come on — poor, lonely and doomed animals. How much sadder does it get?
And yet, if you look behind the obvious, these are actually encouraging signs. Here's why:
- As outlined in Brett French's story for the Billings Gazette, there is only one wolf left in the famous Yellowstone wolf pack known as the Druids (near Druid Peak), and she's unlikely to make it through the winter. This is the pack that is probably the most-watched in the world because it frolicked within site of a major road. Mange, attacks by other packs and various other factors combined to kill off all but one of the wolves. But here's the thing — along the way several other wolf packs spun off this one. And they and other wolves are moving into the Druids' territory. In fact, the demise of this pack shows the success of the reintroduction effort, which I covered in the mid-90s.
- Peter Fimrite's tale of "Buddy," the young bachelor wolverine that wandered at last 800 miles from Idaho to the Lake Tahoe area, is indeed a heartbreaker. He just can't find a mate at this time of year when the birds and the bees are so important. But, folks, let's remember this: When animal populations are on the increase, individuals move out and expand the territory covered by the species. It seems like that's what Buddy — some say he'd be better named "Randy" — appears to have done. Or perhaps overdone.
— Robert McClure