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    Outside OnlineJosh Dean11/11/1013 min
    3 reads2 comments
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    Outside Online
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    • DellwoodBarker
      Top reader this weekReading streakScoutScribe
      5 months ago

      10 Read. Easily.

      Love this Powerful excerpt discussing Wolf 21:

      Since he began his streak in 2000, McIntyre has been to a single town outside of Montana (Cody, Wyoming) and made only a few trips to malls, to see movies. From sunup to sundown, it's all wolves, save for the occasional nap. He is either observing them, helping tourists locate them and understand what they're doing, or preventing tourists from bothering them. When he gets home, he settles into a rolling chair at his desk and begins transcribing dictated field observations. To date, McIntyre has compiled more than 8,000 single-spaced pages of meticulous notes (e.g., "755 stands up, yawns, and lies back down"), many of them printed and bound in three-ring binders. "He was very proud a couple years ago," says Smith. "He had hit more words than the Bible."

      A commonly cited positive of the wolf's return to Yellowstone is that it enlivened the ecology of the park. One study found that woody plants like aspen and willow were dying off during the seven decades the predators were absent and the elk population boomed. When the wolves came back in 1995, the elk could no longer lazily chew away all the aspen and willow chutes. Plants and trees rebounded, songbird numbers grew, and beaver colonies boomed.

      McIntyre's relentless observations can support such ecological hypotheses. But more interesting, his incessant exposure to a recurring cast of wolves he can identify on sight allows him to make more creative speculations about wolf biology. One individual that left an indelible impression was Wolf 21, the longtime alpha male of the Druids. "He was a big, tough guy but also had a very gentle nature with his family," McIntyre tells me one afternoon while staring into a spotting scope over the Yellowstone River. He speaks slowly and methodically and has the gentle air and wispy white hair and mustache of Captain Kangaroo. "Wolf 21's idea of a fair fight was six against one, with him being the one. And he never lost." But he had a heart. According to McIntyre, 21 would always spare the life of a defeated rival.

      One spring, one of 21's younger siblings was sick. "Maybe blind, maybe just developmentally disabled. It didn't know how to feed itself," McIntyre says. He warns me, "I get emotional telling this story," then goes on to say that when 21 would deliver food to the brood, he made it a point to sit with this sick wolf. This is not a typical event in the wild, where the strong are favored.

      McIntyre believes 21's actions help explain why dogs tend to devote extra attention to a sick or depressed person. "We relate that behavior to dogs; we recognize that they're good at that," he says. "But what we don't recognize is that it's a behavior that seems to come from wild wolves."

      If you visit McIntyre's cabin, you'll find—in addition to shelves of wrestling videos and stacks of sixties British acid-rock CDs—a bronze statue of Wolf 21. There's also a photo of one of 21's nephews, 302, nicknamed Casanova for his promiscuous lifestyle. "He arrived from another pack in 2003 and immediately began to woo a number of 21's daughters," McIntyre says. When 21 chased him off, he'd run just far enough to ensure his own safety but not so far that the females couldn't wander off to mate with him. On occasion, 21 needed to send a message and "would beat him up but not kill him."

      Wolf 21 died in 2004, at age nine—old for a wild wolf. "He wandered off and curled up under a tree, looking like he had just gone to sleep," says McIntyre. The death affected McIntyre, he says, much as the death of a human friend would. Following 21's death, Casanova finally made something of himself, helping lead the Druid pack for a period.

    • Jessica5 months ago

      Rick McIntyre‘s dedication to The Druid pack is incredible and inspiring.