July 03, 2006

Watching and Waiting – On Wolf Time

The Wolf Den – (Day 5)

"As is so often true in the natural world, nothing seems to happen. As though the land is the face of a giant clock, the sun traverses the sky, the shadows pivot, the wolves shift position, a musk ox in the distance descends the hill, crosses the river and ascends the other side of the valley. And everything remains as it was hours ago. Or a thousand years ago.”

Greg Breining – “In Wolf Country” (Article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about his trip with Dave Mech in the summer of 2003)

“Mother Wolf” is alone at the den when we arrive. Her winter coat is still long and luxuriant, and she is almost pure white. The dark teats identify her as the breeding female. She returned last night after we left, probably to bring the pups regurgitated meat to the pups and to nurse them. She is tolerant of our visit and seems relaxed. She comes near and inspects us, her golden eyes intense and fixed on us. Satisfied that we are trustworthy visitors, she settles down for a snooze, getting up periodically to disappear around the boulders to the front of the den where we can’t see her.

I attempt to calculate the hours Dave Mech has spent in watchful waiting over the course of this 20-year study. All the data that have been collected and distilled into scientific articles, popular articles, books and a film documentary are the result of patient observation and meticulous recording of behaviors, interactions, pup-rearing, hunting – all that and more. I give up with the mental arithmetic. The hours go by. We fall into a rhythm, heedless of the time. Is it 3:00? 5:00? 7:00? We don’t bother to check. We don’t care, and it doesn’t matter anyway. We read and doze and let our eyes rest on the distant hills and watch Mother. We don’t invade her privacy. We are willing to wait until she is comfortable enough to bring the pups out. The stark beauty of the contoured hills, the weight of the immense sky, the sounds of silence are enough.


  1. "Wolves of the high arctic-research on the arctic wolves of Ellesmere Island" Was AWSOME!It must be so amazing to be able to get that close to a wolf pack! I would love to be able to go to Ellsmere Island & see the musk ox & the huge arctic hares & espescially the wolves. -Mia Werger Age 10

  2. I was absolutely enthralled by the account by Dean and Dave describing their 2008 visit to Ellesmere Island. It was fascinating to share their frustration over not finding the den or the pups, but having nine wolves, including a lactating female surely indicated that pups were there--but where remained a mystery. I was amused by the wolf who came and examined "Elmer" and how this wolf bit poor Elmer, who had to be rescued. Thanks Dean and Dave for your daily accounts of your exciting experiences. As one who enjoys all of the IWC articles on wolf happenings worldwide including Dave's article on this year's Ellesmere visit, it was exciting to share the day-by-day account of this years trip to the far north to see the white arctic wolves. Thanks to Neil Hutt for posting these accounts for all of us wolf enthusiasts to enjoy.

  3. Mia and Bobbie!

    I hope you have not toally given up on checking for a reply from me. I do apologize! I will check this Blog every few days from now on. Thank you so much for your positive comments. I would enjoy answering any and all questions you might have. It was a rare privilege to go to Ellesmere on this research expedition. I still think about it nearly every day.