wolves at play -- 7/21/21

Today's selection -- from The Wisdom of Wolves by Jim and Jamie Dutcher. No matter how old, wolves never stop playing:

"Clouds began to swallow up the peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains, intensifying the feeling of stillness. At last, huge, wet flakes tumbled out of the sky. In a matter of minutes snow was coating the straw-colored grass and boughs of the spruce trees. From the mountains to the valley floor, everything turned white.

"From the looks of it, the wolves of the Sawtooth Pack had been eagerly anticipating this moment for months. First I saw Lakota dashing out of the forest, with Motaki in hot pursuit, nipping at his heels. Then came Kamots, bounding into the clearing, snapping at the falling flakes and rolling ecstatically in the first snow of the long Idaho winter.

"Lakota turned to face his brother, Kamots. With a bounce, he bowed his head to the ground, forelegs splayed wide and hind end pointed high. It was the classic play bow, an open invitation to have some fun. Kamots was already gripped by the spirit and didn't need to be asked. He lunged at Lakota and the two took off in a tear, sprinting a full circle around the clearing before returning to roll in the snow with their packmates.

"As a filmmaker, I was also having a wonderful time. The wolves were ignoring my presence and were completely focused on each other and the moment -- or so I thought. I was intently trying to film their behavior while keeping my camera dry with a raincoat, peering through my lens and carefully adjusting the focus on Lakota and Motaki as they raced through the falling snow.

"I failed to notice Kamots, creeping in from the side. I was totally unaware of his presence until I felt the first tug, and by then it was too late. Instinctively I grabbed the tripod to keep the camera from toppling over, but I was unable to save the raincoat. Immediately it became the object of a game as each wolf tried to snatch it away from Kamots. Lakota closed in and grabbed hold of one of the sleeves. The jacket seams held tough for a surprisingly long time -- a testament to quality construction, I thought. But these are animals who can dismember an elk carcass in a matter of minutes.

"It was a twofold loss. Not only did Kamots steal a very nice rain jacket, but he also ruined a wonderful filming opportunity. Of course he didn't know what had made the scene so extraordinary to a filmmaker's eye, with the dif­fused light so beautiful and everything looking like a fairy­land with enormous flakes swirling about. Meanwhile, all I knew at that moment was that the wolves were tearing a man-made object to shreds -- not at all the wild behavior I wanted in a wildlife film. But they were certainly having a great time.

"The wolves were youngsters that autumn -- before we added Matsi, Amani, and Motomo to the pack -- but even as they grew older, they never failed to greet a snowfall with pure joy. Nor did they lose the mischievous streak that cost me more than one personal item over the course of the six-year project. No matter how old wolves get, they never stop playing."

Click here to learn more about the Sawtooth Pack

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Jim and Jamie Dutcher


The Wisdom of Wolves: Lessons from the Sawtooth Pack


National Geographic Partners, LLC


Copyright 2018 by Jim and Jamie Dutcher


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