About Yellowstone Wolf Tracker
A Wildlife Adventure Company
In Yellowstone with the Wolves, From the Beginning
Nathan Varley and Linda Thurston met in 1996 working on the Yellowstone Wolf Restoration Project in its earliest stage. Project director Doug Smith takes some credit for matching the two wildlife biologists who married 3 years later. Following their years with the wolf project, they created THE WILD SIDE, LLC for their ecological research and university-level field programs. Over a decade ago, YELLOWSTONE WOLF TRACKER was developed as Yellowstone's premier wildlife guiding service, providing services for hundreds of guests throughout the year, and setting the standard for professional service in the industry today.
We advocate emphatically for the wildlife upon which our business depends. Unlike a lot of businesses in our industry that stay quiet and sit on their hands, we show up to speak out on controversial wildlife issues. We are not afraid to stick up for wolves, bison, and bears when they need a voice. As leaders in Bear Creek Council, an all-volunteer, local grassroots group, we dedicate our effort to wise stewardship in our area. We fight mine proposals that threaten Yellowstone's habitat and water quality. We fight trophy hunters that want to shoot wolves and grizzly bears along park borders. We fight for the next generation and their right to experience the same wild Yellowstone we know and love.
Partnerships for Preservation
To combat the opposition to sensible wildlife management in local and regional communities we partner with many conservation organizations. Each year we host workshops for Defenders of Wildlife, a national non-profit who has been a leader in wolf advocacy for decades. In 2017, Defenders honored Nathan and Linda with their prestigious Spirit of Defenders Citizen's Advocacy Award. We also partner with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, renowned for protecting the lands, waters, and wildlife of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Serving on the advisory boards for Living With Wolves and Buffalo Field Campaign, we promote local co-existence measures for wolves and bison. Our compassion runs deep--we donate our services to Make A Wish so that a young child can see a wolf in the wild. For local animal welfare, we support Stafford Animal Shelter. Lastly, we have been both supporters and field instructors for Yellowstone Forever's educational programs for over 2 decades.
Model for Ecotourism
Dedicated to the vision of growing a sustainable ecotourism industry, we work toward protection of the environment with an economic benefit for its communities. Hiring local guides and vendors promotes sustainable, long-term stability for Yellowstone's economy. We participate in grassroots efforts to encourage sustainable practices in industry, business, and recreation. We teach and practice the Leave No Trace outdoor ethics curriculum. The food we serve is healthy, organic, and sourced locally to the extent possible. Product waste including plastics, aluminum, paper, and glass is recycled through participation in the Green Parks Plan.
With a passion for conservation and wildlife, our guide culture is one of reverence, wonder, and awe for a wild Yellowstone. ~ Michael Leach, GM
We pride ourselves in hiring skilled guides with a warm and friendly demeanor, capable of conscientious service and meaningful connection. At the core of our operation are the two founders and general manager:
Owner Nathan Varley grew up in Yellowstone Park as the son of park rangers. He has dedicated his life to being both a student and teacher of the Yellowstone ecosystem. Earning an M.S. from Montana State University, he studied the mountain goats colonizing Yellowstone. Studying the wolf and elk predator-prey dynamic, he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Alberta. As a professional guide, he specializes in the natural and cultural history of the park, wildlife observation, and wilderness travel. His defining purpose is to champion a land ethic that places the highest value on wildlife and habitat, and in so doing, forever protect the places that have provided his inspiration.
Owner Linda Thurston has worked with wolves in the Rocky Mountains for much of her career as a wildlife biologist. She earned an M.S. degree from Texas A&M studying the ecology of Yellowstone wolf den attendance. In addition to wolf and bison studies in Yellowstone Park, she worked on wolves for Idaho Fish and Game in the Clearwater River region, and for the University of Alberta in Banff National Park. For Defenders of Wildlife, she solved chronic wolf depredation problems associated with domestic livestock using proactive prevention measures. She guides hundreds of people to see wolves and other wildlife in Yellowstone each year sharing her extensive experience and knowledge of wildlife behavior.
General Manager Michael "Coach" Leach is the straw that stirs the drink of the operation. He has worked for YWT as a guide and GM, as well as, worked in the park since 2001 as a naturalist and bear education ranger. With three generations of Wyoming blood, his roots run deep in the region. He earned an Environmental Studies degree from the University of Montana. Michael has served on the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Citizens Advisory Committee and was the founder and director of Yellowstone Country Guardians, a group dedicated to inspiring conservation leadership in local youth. He has since published numerous natural history articles and authored three books including Grizzlies On My Mind, a Yellowstone memoir. Michael is an inspirer of people, a passionate father, activist and guide, who is always eager to connect guests to the power and wonder of Yellowstone.