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Welcome!

Join me in my adventures in California, Yosemite and beyond! I've spent over twenty years in environmental leadership roles--and in two of the largest national parks, Yosemite and Yellowstone.

Through my work as the California Director for the National Wildlife Federation (my dream job), I'll enjoy sharing my encounters with wildlife and my explorations of California's beautiful landscapes with you--especially my favorite place on earth: Tuolumne Meadows and the High Sierra.

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"Life is a dog and then you die. No, no, life is a joyous dance through daffodils beneath cerulean blue skies. And then? I forget what happens next."                                        Edward Abbey

"Within National Parks is room--glorious room--room in which to find ourselves, in which to think and hope, to dream and plan, to rest and resolve."   Enos Mills

"The animals of the planet are in desperate peril. Without free animal life I believe we will lose the spiritual equivalent of oxygen."                                         Alice Walker

"I have never been in a natural place and felt that was a waste of time. I never have. And it's a relief. If I'm walking around a desert or whatever, every second is worthwhile.”                                           Viggo Mortensen

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Must reads! Some good books I am reading or rereading.
  • Last Chance: Preserving Life on Earth (Speaker's Corner)
    Last Chance: Preserving Life on Earth (Speaker's Corner)
    by Larry J. Schweiger
  • The Golden Shore: California's Love Affair with the Sea
    The Golden Shore: California's Love Affair with the Sea
    by David Helvarg
  • Letters to a Young Scientist
    Letters to a Young Scientist
    by Edward O. Wilson
  • Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water, Revised Edition
    Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water, Revised Edition
    by Marc Reisner
  • The Future of Life
    The Future of Life
    by Edward O. Wilson
  • Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
    Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
    by Bill McKibben
  • Saving Homewaters: The Story of Montana's Streams and Rivers
    Saving Homewaters: The Story of Montana's Streams and Rivers
    by Gordon Sullivan
  • Pika: Life in the Rocks
    Pika: Life in the Rocks
    by Tannis Bill
  • The World Is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean's Are One
    The World Is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean's Are One
    by Sylvia Earle
  • Decade of the Wolf: Returning the Wild to Yellowstone
    Decade of the Wolf: Returning the Wild to Yellowstone
    by Douglas W. Smith, Gary Ferguson
  • Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone: A Mountaineering History & Guide
    Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone: A Mountaineering History & Guide
    by Thomas Turiano
  • The Invention of Clouds: How an Amateur Meteorologist Forged the Language of the Skies
    The Invention of Clouds: How an Amateur Meteorologist Forged the Language of the Skies
    by Richard Hamblyn
  • Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity
    Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity
    by James Hansen
  • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race
    The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race
    by Jon Stewart
  • The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean
    The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean
    by Susan Casey
  • Jane Goodall: 50 Years at Gombe
    Jane Goodall: 50 Years at Gombe
    by Jane Goodall
  • The Wolverine Way
    The Wolverine Way
    by Douglas Chadwick
  • Wolf: The Lives of Jack London
    Wolf: The Lives of Jack London
    by James L. Haley
  • Gloryland
    Gloryland
    by Shelton Johnson
  • Faith of Cranes: Finding Hope and Family in Alaska
    Faith of Cranes: Finding Hope and Family in Alaska
    by Hank Lentfer
  • State of Change, A: Forgotten Landscapes of California
    State of Change, A: Forgotten Landscapes of California
    by Laura Cunningham
« A Fond Farewell to Yellowstone | Main | Celebrating National Wildlife Week in Yellowstone »
Sunday
Apr032011

Of wolves, elk, and men: an interview with Yellowstone's wolf project leader

Yellowstone wolf 778M being captured during this year's research Photo: Yellowstone Wolf Project For over thirty years, Douglas Smith has been studying wolves, and has worked on the wolf restoration project in Yellowstone since it’s inception. But this year during his annual winter research, he was taken aback by the sight of a remarkable wolf his team captured for study, 760M, now the largest wolf ever recorded in Yellowstone.

“I’ve handled hundreds of wolves, so I have sort of gotten hardened to the process. He was something—not just another wolf. As a scientist you always take the viewpoint that you can find answers. And for the first time I thought that this is a wolf who truly has secrets.”

Smith points out that 760M lives in the most remote area of the Yellowstone and of the lower 48 states. “I just started thinking in my head as I looked at him that this is the kind of wolf that remoteness produces.” At 147 pounds, 760M replaces the previous record holder for the largest wolf in Yellowstone, 495M, who weighed in at 143 pounds. But as Smith observes, 495 is still a pretty remarkable wolf. “495M is a pro. He’s doing great. We think he’ll turn 7/8 in April, so he’s past his prime, but he’s still hunting bison. And that is what is interesting about wolves, there is no such thing as a generic wolf.”

Doug Smith darting wolf 780M during winter research this year in Yellowstone Photo: Yellowstone Wolf ProjectHis research this year also showed that after two consecutive years of declines, the wolf population has largely stabilized in Yellowstone. The northern range wolves suffered the most declines in prior years, but the decreases have leveled off according to the most recent counts. And with this stabilization, Smith believes the ecosystem as a whole is becoming more balanced.

“When wolves weren’t in Yellowstone the system was out of whack because there were tons of elk and tons of coyotes and other things suffered as a result. Now there’s greater balance among both plant and animal species. I imagine this is more what Yellowstone was like before it got changed because of European humans.”

Smith also commented about the blame wolves receive for reducing elk populations. “It’s incredibly painful dealing with people who don’t like wolves and say they have devastated the elk herd. And it’s difficult to talk to people who just want Yellowstone to be an elk farm. Yes, with carnivores you have fewer animals to hunt. But this is the way it was in Yellowstone before we interfered. When we start killing predators because we want more animals to hunt, it becomes agriculture. Is that what we want the forests and the landscapes of the west to be, a big farming operation? I don’t want the world to be so highly manipulated that we have no place where wild nature can just be.”

The full interview with Douglas Smith will be published in National Parks Traveler on April 7.

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