June 14, 2024
How a runt wolf from Canada became a hero
A new book tells the story of the greatest wolf who ever lived, and the one greater than him.
A new book tells the story of the greatest wolf who ever lived, and the one greater than him.

When the wolves returned to America’s first wilderness park a quarter-century ago, humans began to flock by the hundreds to Yellowstone National Park to see the 31 newcomers from Alberta and British Columbia. Rick McIntyre, the wolf watcher’s wolf watcher, was among the visitors almost daily, sharing his long-distance scope with anyone who requested it—including an excited Ted Turner who politely asked, as Jane Fonda ambled over, if his wife might also have a glimpse—and telling a lifetime of wolf stories.

The reintroduction of an apex predator after 70 years was always going to be a crowd-pleaser. But the ongoing nature of that fascination—the steady stream of visitors, documentaries and books, including McIntyre’s new The Rise of Wolf 8: Witnessing the Triumph of Yellowstone’s Underdog, the first in a planned trilogy on some of the most successful Canadian emigrants ever to the U.S.—is more unexpected. McIntyre, 70, the Massachusetts-born son of a Canadian and a wolf obsessive since he first followed them as a park naturalist in Alaska, has a persuasive explanation.

“When I first started working at Denali [National Park] in Alaska, I was really taken with the grizzlies.” But after a while, says McIntyre, the majestic bears are, well, boring: “eating berries, eating grass, digging up roots, sleeping, over and over.” The wolves were entirely different. “The way they earn their living as predators is an exciting thing to witness because of their very high failure rate, up to 95 per cent. It’s very difficult for them to make a kill, and they really have to work at it together. But what’s really interesting is that when they are not hunting they spend a lot of time in social activity, interacting and playing every type of game imaginable.” From the viewpoint of a Park Service naturalist charged with explaining wildlife behaviour to visitors, wolves offered far more to work with than grizzlies.