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Wolves:  A Legend Returns to Yellowstone

>Purchase this video from the Yellowstone Association

The well-awaited National Geographic Special, Wolves: A Legend Returns to Yellowstone (AKA Return of the Wolf ), about the gray wolf recovery project in Yellowstone, is a complete triumph. The feature length special as aried on PBS was filmed and produced by Bob Landis, a veteran wildlife film-maker that has made Yellowstone his home. His milestone film provides an unprecedented perspective on wild wolves and historical reintroduction effort.

The ~55-minute production loosely follows the saga of the Druid Peak Pack. Beginning with the wolves’ capture and subsequent release into Yellowstone, the story unfolding with several major events in the history of the Druids. The death of big Wolf 38, the original alpha male of the pack, is depicted with heart-breaking clarity. The loss of the alpha male is resolved when a Rose Creek male, Wolf 21, encounters the Druid pack in a never-before-filmed sequence of tenuous first-time introductions and eventual acceptance. Wolf 21 is the current alpha male of the pack to this day and his pack take-over stands out as one of the finest moments of wild wolf behavior captured on film.

While the story of the top males plays strongly, the most compelling story emerges as a rivalry between sisters, Wolves 40 and 42. The alpha female 40 is portrayed as being, "not very forgiving," while Wolf 42 is shown as an able hunter and supporter of the pack that, through continual aggression from her sister, has earned the nickname, "Cinderella." Their relationship is further developed with brilliant sequences that add to the Cinderella wolf’s struggle. Eventually she is ousted from the pack preparing the audience for the final uplifting conclusion.

The original piece is followed by a 90-second epilogue that further caps the story with startling occurrences within the Druid Peak Pack from the 2000 den season.

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Wolf 21 stands over his mate Wolf 40

Not to be undersold is the central human character in the drama, National Park Service biologist Dr. Douglas Smith. Smith's intimate relationship to the wolves is unique and his  guidance of the recovery of the wolf population in Yellowstone turns at once painful and gratifying. Doug demonstrates his passion for good management and research that has led to major success in wolf recovery.   Research has brought about a better understanding of the wolf's role as a predator. One scene looks at the examination of a wolf-killed elk in the field revealing the poor condition of the elk and supporting the supposition that wolf predation occurs mainly upon the vulnerable members of the herd.

Return of the Wolf has an essence of purity sure to captivate and persuade its audience. The wildlife photography is an amazing collection of rare glimpses of fascinating wolf behavior.  The other Yellowstone wildlife contribute much in the supporting roles. Common pit-falls of a feature wildlife story are present, dramatization and anthropomorphism can be irksome to a few, but the story is essentially a true one and represents a vital record in the history of wolves in the park. It will thrill, horrify, and enchant audiences well into the future. The film both challenges and affirms the goals of wolf recovery, but ultimately leaves the decision in the mind of the audience. A large audience, some of whom remain as yet untapped, will predictably come away invigorated and triumphant in the successes of wolf recovery. Please tell everyone you know to watch this film.  --N. V.

>Purchase this video from the Yellowstone Association

Also see:  Landis Wildlife Films 

Yellowstone wolves Predation Video

and National Geographic's Return of the Wolf

>Purchase this video from the Yellowstone Association



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